Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

"Marijuana policies: A call to shift from a criminal justice approach to a public health approach"

The title of this post is the title of this Hill commentary authored by Elizabeth Long and Diana Fishbein.  Here are excerpts:

Despite the billions of dollars, marijuana prohibition has cost society; this strategy has failed to protect communities. Instead, it has caused great harm, particularly for marginalized populations. These adverse outcomes are rooted in policies enacted to tackle this public health problem that has little to do with public health. Marijuana possession continues to be treated as a criminal matter, even though, historically, there are no examples of criminal law solving a public health matter....

While decriminalization of marijuana is projected to have many economic and social benefits, legislation must balance decriminalization with the need to prevent teenage use. Teenage marijuana use can alter the course of brain development and increase risk for dependence and possibly addiction. Heavy use in adolescence has been associated with several developmental delays. Importantly, when teenagers believe using a drug is not harmful, they are more likely to use it....

A substantial body of research justifies reallocating resources from criminal justice to public health policies. A public health approach focuses on the implementation and enforcement of regulations to manage health risks through policy changes, such as taxation, regulation of advertising, and age limits. Several policy recommendations are offered here for consideration:

  1. Support a detailed, comprehensive, scientific evaluation of the impacts from current laws surrounding both medical marijuana and adult-use to guide future legislation.
  2. Re-categorize marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III or IV to be more consistent with its known pharmacological properties and effects.
  3. Update the regulatory structure by applying uniform standards to the types of products that can be sold or marketed to the public.
  4. Invest prevention resources in delaying the age of initiation of marijuana use past the period when the brain is still developing (around age 25) to reduce the impact on neurodevelopment.
  5. Support screening, early detection, and intervention. Focus both on at-risk youth who have not yet initiated to avert pathways to use in adolescence and youth who have already begun using marijuana to avoid negative consequences. 

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2020/01/marijuana-policies-a-call-to-shift-from-a-criminal-justice-approach-to-a-public-health-approach.html

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