The best evidence shows that cannabis legalization was NOT a disaster after all. The fears were ridiculously overblown, and if anything legalization turned out to be a win-win-win situation for everyone but the crooks, creeps, cops, and cronies. It saved a ton of money on law enforcement and related costs, brought in major tax revenue, likely reduced real (i.e. violent and property) crime and the use/abuse of other substances (including alcohol), is taking a major bite out of the drug cartels and associated violence, and the supposedly large social costs of legalization that the naysayers feared still have not panned out even several years later. And thus, no good reason for cannabis to remain illegal anywhere else at this point. Nor is there any objective or scientific reason why the age limit should be any higher than 18.
And while cannabis can indeed impair driving, it is far less likely to lead to serious or fatal crashes than alcohol and most other strong psychoactive drugs. And there is still no conclusive evidence that legalization of cannabis has actually led to a significant increase in traffic casualties. On the contrary, the opposite seems to be more likely to be true given how when alcohol retreats, cannabis advances, and vice-versa. And the research evidence tends to bear this out quite well.
As for the substance itself, while excessive use can indeed be harmful at any age, and there is some evidence that cannabis use before age 18 (particularly if initiated before 15 and/or transitioning to heavy use before 18) may be riskier than using it after 18, there is ZERO credible scientific evidence that cannabis is any more harmful at 18 than it is at 21, 25, or even 30 for that matter. In fact, by practically any objective, rational, scientific measure, cannabis is safer than alcohol, tobacco, most prescription drugs, and even Tylenol, and is less addictive than coffee. No substance is completely safe for everybody, but that really puts it in perspective. And as time goes on, real scientists are increasingly debunking more and more of those scary stock statistics and studies that the prohibitionists just luuurrrve to shill.
And any public health concerns about increasing potency of cannabis can easily be resolved in a regulated legal market by capping THC levels and/or taxing it based on THC content.
Thus, below is what we believe should be the ideal framework for cannabis legalization and regulation:
- The age limit for purchase, possession, cultivation, and casual non-profit transfers should be set no higher than 18.
- Cannabis should require a license to sell it commercially, but can be sold in the same places that alcohol and tobacco currently are, in addition to dedicated specialty stores and Dutch-style cannabis cafes.
- There should be a cap on the number of retail licenses, to avoid excessive outlet density.
- Local communities shall have local option as they currently do for alcohol sales.
- The limit for possession for adults over 18 should be 1 oz (or 30 g) outside of one's home, though no limit inside one's home if self-cultivated.
- The limit for purchase in any transaction should be 1 oz (or 30 g) for adults over 21, and 1/8 oz (or 3.5 g) for 18-20 year olds, with a limit of one transaction per day.
- Adults 18 and older should be allowed to grow up to 12 mature plants at any given time in their own residences or their own property. More than that shall require a commercial cultivation license.
- Upon legalization, the tax on crude cannabis should be no more than $10/oz on commerical cultivation and/or no more than 10% on final retail sales for the first year or two. After that, the tax should rise to $50/oz and 10-15%, respectively. (Those are the suggested rates for bud (flower), while trim (leaf) should be taxed significantly lower, about one-quarter to one-half as much by weight.)
- Consider taxing based on THC content, particularly for edibles, beverages, tinctures, oils, concentrates (hash oil), resin (hashish), and vaping liquids/pods.
- Strict quality control should be required for commercial cannabis.
- For all crude, dried cannabis, the THC content should be capped at 15% by weight, and both the THC and CBD levels must be tested and clearly lableled. Hashish resin should be capped at around 25-30% THC.
- Edibles need to be clearly labeled according to potency and dosage size, put in child-resistant packaging where applicable, and the THC content should be limited.
- Smoking or vaping weed in public at any age, except in a designated area, should be a violation (ticket) offense with a $100 fine for a first offense and $200 for subsequent offenses, and the material would be declared a nuisance and confiscated.
- Unless otherwise designated, all no-smoking laws and protocols for tobacco would also apply to cannabis as well.
- Mixed-use gazebos, for example, should be erected for outdoor cannabis smoking.
- Smoking or vaping weed in a moving vehicle at any age should also be a violation (ticket) offense with a $100 fine for a first offense and $200 for subsequent offenses, and the material would be declared a nuisance and confiscated.
- For people under 18, possession or consumption of any amount would remain illegal, but if the amount is less than 1 oz (28.5 g) it should only be a violation (ticket) offense with a $100 fine for a first offense and $200 for subsequent offenses, and the material would be declared a nuisance and confiscated.
- Furnishing cannabis to people under 18, with no remuneration, should be illegal and treated similarly to furnishing alcohol or tobacco to people under 18. But casually sharing small quantities of less than 5 grams (such as passing around a joint, blunt, bowl, or bong) should just be a violation (ticket) offense if the recipient is no more than 4 years younger than the donor, and/or both are under 18.
- The age limit of 18 for sales should be strictly enforced on vendors with compliance checks, and failing such checks should be punished with hefty fines and retail license suspensions.
- Driving under the influence should remain illegal, with the prima facie or permissible inference blood THC limit set at 5 ng/mL (5 ppb) like Colorado currently does. No zero tolerance or per se limits though, since there is really no direct correlation between THC levels and actual impairment (though 5 ng/mL seems to provide the least-worst separation between impaired and non-impaired drivers.)
- There is still no breathalyzer equivalent for cannabis or any other substance besides alcohol, of course, but there are oral fluid (saliva) tests nonetheless as the next best thing, followed by a confirmatory blood test in the event of test failure.
- Penalites for driving under the influence of cannabis alone should be lower than those for alcohol alone, but higher than either one alone when combined with alcohol.
- Advertising should be restricted to the greatest extent that the United States and State Constitutions allow, and should certainly not be aimed at children or teens. For example, the federal government could restrict cannabis advertising precisely the same way tobacco advertising is currently regulated, as could any state or local government as well.
- And last but not least, people currently in prison or with a record for cannabis should be freed and have their convictions expunged, provided they have no violent offenses and their only drug offenses are cannabis possession and/or lower-level cannabis distribution/sale.