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medical marijuana

The challenge of legalizing medical marijuana

Marijuana leads the way of changing status. If it is considered a prohibited and persecuted drug, it can become a legal drug such as alcohol or tobacco if ongoing initiatives thrive. Many countries have approved their therapeutic use and others even consider the legalization of recreational use.

For a substance that has been recorded that was already consumed 8,000 years ago in China, moving from the prohibition to tolerance and tolerance to legalization is still a new avatar in its oscillating history of permissiveness and persecution. But those who promote these changes claim that the legalization of cannabis is the first step of a new paradigm in drug policy. Its intention is not, of course, to favor the use of addictive substances, but to deprive it of the criminality involved in its prohibition. The legalization of cannabis would be the first link.

The approach has more and more followers, including notable leaders of global projection, but every time it takes shape in a country, the proposal raises fears. It is not easy to gauge the consequences. The images of the last Cannabis World Congress held in Los Angeles, where avid business investors already projected the honeys of what the market of 18 million current clandestine consumers could report to them, is not reassuring. Under what conditions should it be legalized? What consequences would it have on consumption? At the moment, there is a paradox that the claim of therapeutic use of medical marijuana is having a pernicious effect: it reinforces the low perception of risk among young people. If medical marijuana is a medicine, it can’t be bad, they think. But cannabis is not a harmless drug at all. On the contrary, new studies confirm that cannabis addiction causes cognitive damage and psychotic disorders.

The regulatory situation is very changing. While the effects of a possible legalization are debated, some parliaments have opted for an intermediate step: legalize their use for therapeutic purposes. In Europe they have done Belgium, Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland, Macedonia, Croatia and recently Germany. But some have gone further and legalized the cultivation and controlled sale of cannabis for recreational uses. This is the case in Uruguay, which in 2013, under the presidency of José Mujica, became the first country to legalize the consumption, production and sale of medical marijuana under the control of a public body that authorizes plantations. It is allowed to grow up to six plants for self-consumption and buy up to 40 grams per month in pharmacies. In the United States, there are already seven states that have legalized it with different control formulas.

The danger that addiction experts observe in a possible legalization of recreational consumption is that cannabis has the tolerance and social acceptance of both legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco. In Spain, the percentage of people who abuse drugs has been reduced, but alcohol involvement remains stable. The latest report of the National Drug Plan, which analyzes the evolution of all substances between 2009 and 2016, indicates that the number of problem drinkers remains stable at around 1.5 million. Instead, problematic cannabis users have dropped from 803,000 to 558,000. Although it is far from legal drugs, 7.3% of Spaniards consume cannabis at least once a month, and 2% consume it daily.