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New Study Highlights How Everyone Benefits From Modernized Cannabis Policies

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Cannabis policy modernization efforts are gaining momentum in many parts of the world. Every continent except Antarctica is now home to a nation that has either legalized cannabis for adult use to some degree or is experiencing ramped-up efforts to do so.

Modernized cannabis policies in nations like Uruguay, Canada, Malta, and Luxembourg have yielded new freedoms for consumers. Additionally, modernized cannabis policies also create new opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors.

Casual observers often make the mistake of assuming that modernized cannabis policies only affect consumers and people with business pursuits in the emerging legal cannabis industry. However, that is not the case, as highlighted by a recent comprehensive study conducted in Canada.

A team of researchers associated with the University of Northern British Columbia, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the University of Victoria, the University of Guelph, and
Dalhousie University recently evaluated the relationship between legalization, adult cannabis-related, property, and violent crimes.

As part of the evaluation, the researchers examined criminal incident data from the Canadian Uniform Crime Reporting Survey for the period of January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2021. A main goal of the Cannabis Act in Canada, implemented in 2018, was to lower the burden on the nation’s criminal justice system. Researchers sought to determine if the legislation was successful in that regard, in addition to seeing if there were any changes to property and/or violent crime rates post-legalization.

“Implementation of the Cannabis Act was associated with decreases in adult police-reported cannabis-related offenses: females, −13.2 daily incidents (95% CI, −16.4; −10.1; p < 0.001) – a reduction of 73.9% [standard error (se), 30.6%]; males, −69.4 daily offenses (95% CI, −81.5; −57.2; p < 0.001) – a drop of 83.2% (se, 21.2%).” the researchers stated.

“Legalization was not associated with significant changes in the adult property-crime or violent-crime series.” researchers went on to state.

“Our findings suggest that Canada’s cannabis legalization was successful in reducing cannabis-related criminalization among adults. There was also a lack of evidence for spillover effects of cannabis legalization on adult property or violent crimes.” the researchers concluded.

Not everyone consumes cannabis, obviously. However, all members of society rely on their nation’s criminal justice system to keep society safe and to properly and equitably hold people accountable when they harm other people.

Criminal justice policy and enforcement is a zero-sum situation, in that there are not unlimited resources to fund such activity. Law enforcement agencies and courts have to decide what matters to prioritize, and what is not worth the resources.

Under prohibition, law enforcement wastes enormous amounts of resources enforcing failed public policy, and at an opportunity cost. Every hour that a member of law enforcement spends enforcing failed cannabis prohibition is an hour that they could have spent fighting actual crime, such as property and violent crime.

The same is true for the court system. Every cannabis case that has to go through the court system wastes docket hours and court resources that should be used instead for prosecuting actual criminal activity. Cannabis prohibition harms every member of society to some degree by wasting limited public criminal justice resources, whether people realize it or not.

Compare that to a country in which cannabis modernization is not only helping save limited tax dollars from being wasted on cannabis prohibition enforcement, but it also generates tax dollars for local and national governments to use to help improve society, such as helping fund schools, parks, and other civic projects. Canada is now a prime example of that on display for the world to see.

All members of society should support cannabis policy modernization, even if they do not consume cannabis and/or never have plans to. Cannabis prohibition is a failed public policy wherever it still exists, and it’s time for governments in those jurisdictions to take a more sensible approach.