Businesses in the cannabis industry are looking into the possibility that pot would be legalized in more states and not just for medical purposes but also for recreational or adult use. For some, it is the sound of cash registers going ka-ching that motivates them to get into this risky business.
Different states are also currently studying whether or not to legalize marijuana in their jurisdictions. A big part of the reason for this is the big tax revenue that they would get from marijuana, which could be used for everything – from road repairs, to education, to community programs.
Policy analysts from the UC San Francisco took a look at different pieces of marijuana legalization laws in the United States and the researchers are now offering a roadmap that would train the focus on public health rather than profits.
The framework seeks to avoid the problems that have started to plague the alcohol and tobacco industries, which now have political lobbyists, and employ aggressive marketing just to safeguard profits. In fact, much of the framework seeks to reduce demand for cannabis using the strategies that have worked for controlling tobacco.
The entire cannabis industry would grow big and it has the potential to become the monsters that the alcohol and tobacco industries have become.
The researchers have noted that current legalization moves are anchored on policies for alcohol sales. The problem with this approach is that alcohol policies focus more on the tax and revenues generated from the sale of these products, rather than on issues of public health.
The lead author, Rachel Barry, is a UCSF policy analyst. Barry warns that if marijuana is legalized without any effective ways to control it, then the entire cannabis industry would grow big and it has the potential to become the monsters that the alcohol and tobacco industries have become. Barry says that it is not out of the picture that cannabusinesses would try to manipulate regulatory frameworks, use aggressive marketing strategies, and create product designs that are aimed at increasing use and sustaining high demand.
Barry further warns that if this happens, marijuana might present a social and health problem for most people.
Barry’s warnings are important because more and more states are legalizing marijuana. Without the focus on public health, effective cannabis use controls might be more of a reactionary second thought instead of the foundation for legalization.
The public health framework that Barry suggests would have the state’s health department as the lead agency that would work on one mandate: limit the use of legal cannabis for everybody. Like tobacco regulation, the framework also seeks to protect non-users from exposure, prevent people from trying out and starting to use marijuana, and encourage current users to quit. The health department as the lead agency would also be tasked with regulating the manufacture, distribution and marketing of marijuana and related products.
Colorado, Alaska, Washington, and Oregon, all legal cannabis states, have not followed this framework.
Aside from making the state’s health department the lead agency for marijuana control, Barry and her fellow researchers also suggest:
- Forming advisory committees that would include public health professionals and marijuana business executives.
- Forming a single regulatory body for both recreational and medical marijuana, following the same set of rules.
- Collecting taxes that would help provide for health and regulation costs.
- Collecting taxes that would be spent on marijuana prevention and control programs, as well as fund research initiatives.
- Creating mass media education campaigns aimed at everyone, not just teenagers and the younger set.
- Prohibiting the use of cannabis in public spaces. Marijuana should also be prohibited in places where e-cigarettes and tobacco are not allowed.
- Forbidding the use of sports personalities, cartoon characters, and celebrities in the promotion of marijuana.
- Prohibiting the use of event sponsorships, therapeutic claims, mass media advertisements, and product placements.