Legalizing Marijuana

Another one of the session I attended at the Alcohol Drugs History Society conference, Under Control?, was on “Prohibiting Cannabis”.  Neil Boyd spoke about Vancouver and the status of legalizing marijuana use in Canada. Many people in Vancouver support decriminalization and promote taxation and regulation in place of criminal penalties.

There were several other papers at the conference which looked at the history of cannabis use and regulation. They all left me with a series of questions about what legal marijuana would look like. If we tax and regulate marijuana in a similar way to alcohol and tobacco will we get the commercialization that those products have engendered?

Further what are the social and public implications if marijuana becomes legal? Drinking alcohol in most societies is a social activity which has produced institutions where the drinking takes place. Will spaces similar to cafes, pubs, and bars develop for consuming marijuana?

At the same time that drinking is a social activity societies have enacted rules that create boundaries for drinking in public spaces. What will be the legal equivalent of open container laws?

Many municipalities in North America have enacted legislation which prohibits smoking tobacco in restaurants, hotels, and often outdoor spaces near hospitals and other facilities. Will these laws simply be extended to the smoking of marijuana?

As states consider legalizing recreational use of cannabis answers to these questions may begin to emerge.

marijuana plant
Cannabis plant

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