It has often been said that legalisation would see higher prices and strict controls, but that is not the vision of any of the regulation proposals here. Most say that to end the illicit market the legal product needs to be cheaper than the black market cannabis, and most contain provision for individual home grown plants. The Case Studies are a bit of history and background. After that are various proposals as to how legalisation could be implemented.
This is not decriminalisation, but regulation. Decriminalisation preserves the failings of prohibition but makes it easier for smokers. That is a wedge of Howardly proportions. It is a Clayton’s measure.
We have to look beyond the smoke and mirrors, the fear and mystification, the rhetoric and hysteria, etc and get a clear unemotional view. The issue of prohibition is clouded with emotion and it will be difficult to overcome that, but it is the only real option.
The temperance dream of abstinence through legal prohibition has created a social nightmare. We need a rational way to move on. We need a well defined and articulate goal.
Case Studies of Cannabis Law Reform (WA, NZ & UK)
A bit of drug law history on earlier reform efforts.
Quote: “As a consequence of the Commonwealth Government being a signatory and having ratified each of the three UN Conventions a series of complex and varying laws has been introduced by each of the Australian jurisdictions to implement the minimum requirements of these conventions. There is little consistency in the legislation passed by the States and Territories as in each jurisdiction drug laws have been driven by local factors, measures to counteract and anticipate emerging local and national trends and issues involving the use of cannabis and other drugs. In addition to separate laws concerned with prohibited drugs in each jurisdiction, there is a raft of complex Commonwealth, State and Territory laws covering other matters, such as confiscation of the proceeds of crime and money laundering. 344
Because of the interlinked relationship between domestic and international debate about reform, discourse about law reform in a specific jurisdiction inevitably includes references to and acknowledges DLE developments in other jurisdictions. The dominance of the UN framework means that reform in one jurisdiction are likely to be of significance in other signatory countries and an exemplar of how policies may apparently conform to the strictures of the UN conventions by adapting to domestic circumstances and values. There is also a sequential nature to drug reform as innovations and investigations undertaken in one jurisdiction tend to he built upon and developed by subsequent reforms m other countries.
However, the strictures from the UN drug conventions have attracted growing criticism as it has been recognised the possibilities for law reform and policy development in jurisdictions like WA, NZ and the UK can be constrained by the extent to which legislators believe they have to defer to these conventions. In practice the majority of jurisdictions have adhered closely to the principles embodied in an international prohibition framework concerning both naturally occurring drugs (such as cannabis) and synthetic drugs.’ 345
“There is … a North American bias in both drug policy and drug policy research. This bias takes many forms and contains a number of contradictions. Global drug policy for instance, is being marketed to the general public as an emanation of the global village’s’ volonte generale (general will), while serious analyses convincingly show, that it really rests on a highly coercive consensus masterminded by just one international moral entrepreneur: the United States. Had it not been for a century of big stick diplomacy, contemporary ‘narcotics control’ would display the diversity of present day alcohol controls instead of the uniformity of international conventions. “ 346
It has been argued that the dominance by the US and the key UN bodies responsible for implementation of the various drug conventions. the INCB and the UN Drug Control Program (UNDCP). has meant that policy development in Australia and other signatory nations has been substantially hampered.
“Both the UNDCP/INCB and the government of the USA, have explicit policies that other nations should apply, their (prohibitionist) approaches to drugs in society The provisions of the international treaties recognising that legislation and its enforcement may reflect the cultures of individual nations is generally ignored. In this context it isworrying that many nations have incorporated the Conventions into domestic law without critical examination of (1) the implications of doing so and (2) the potential usefulness, for individual nations, of the provisions which apparently permit deviation from total prohibition where this reflects local cultures.” 347
343 Roberts M, Klien A & Tace M. Towards a review of global policies on illegal drugs. Report One. Beckley Foundation, Drug Policy Program, 2004.
344 It has been argued that the Commonwealth would probably be able to legislate to enable it to exclusively cover drug offences In Australia. Cf: Brown R. ‘Federal drug control laws: present and future.’ (1977) 8 Federal Law Review 435 452.
345 For a comprehensive review of the historical progression In the development of the international framework, see Chapter 19 “The international legal environment.” Volume III in Canada, Parliament, Senate. Special Committee on Illegal Drugs. Cannabis: our position for a Canadian public policy. (3 Vols). Ottawa. Canadian Parliament, 2002.
346 Scheerer S. ‘North American bias and non American roots of cannabis prohibition.’ In Bollinger L (ed). Cannabis science: From prohibition to human right. Frankfurt, Germany. Peter Lang. 1997.
347 McDonald D. A focus on the goals of drug policy, not just its form. Paper presented at International Symposium Regulating Cannabis: Options for control in the 21st century. Regents College, 5th September 1998.
Arguments Opposing Prohibition:
Taxing the UK Drugs Market.pdf
“The key to maximising excise (tax) revenues is to keep the user price low enough to undercut the illicit market..” after legalisation, naturally.
Model for Legalisation (German) pdf
A history of prohibition and a model for legalisation/regulation. It is referred to as a “global model” and suggests a hundred plants for personal use.
The Transform Drug Policy Foundation exists to reduce harm and promote sustainable health and wellbeing by bringing about a just, effective and humane system to regulate and control drugs at local, national and international levels.
“The term ‘legalisation’ is frequently misunderstood. Transform uses a more specific definition; the ‘regulation and control of the production, supply and use of currently illegal drugs’ (see definitions p. 17). This implies the repeal of prohibition but not its replacement with a free market model of legalisation as espoused by some libertarians and free market economists. The various regulatory options for legal drug production and supply are outlined in this report (see p. 18). Transform is not advocating the ‘drugs free for all’ that some critics have suggested; we would argue that such a phrase more accurately describes today’s criminal drug’markets. Equating prohibition’ and ‘drug control’ is one of the great ironies of social policy – in reality, prohibition means abdicating control to gangsters and unregulated dealers. Legalisation would, by contrast, put in place the regulations and controls absent from existing illegal markets.”
Transform Tools For The Debate.pdf
This guide is aimed at people in government and civil society who understand that prohibition has been disastrously counter-productive and appreciate the need for an alternative, but who lack the analysis, facts or language tools to engage in the public debate with real confidence.
Controlling Psychoactive Substances; the Current System and Alternative Models.pdf
Kings County Bar Association (USA) Drugs Policy Project Report.
“This report is the product the Legal Frameworks Group of the King County Bar Association Drug Policy Project, which included the participation of more than two dozen attorneys and other professionals, as well as scholars, public health experts, state and local legislative staff, current and former law enforcement representatives and current and former elected officials. The Legal Frameworks Group was established as an outgrowth of the work of the Task Force on the Use of Criminal Sanctions, which published its own report in 2001 examining the effectiveness and appropriateness of the use of criminal sanctions related to psychoactive drug use.
The Criminal Sanctions Task Force report found that the continued arrest, prosecution and incarceration of persons violating the drug laws has failed to reduce the chronic societal problem of drug abuse and its attendant public and economic costs. Further, the Task Force found that toughening drug-related penalties has not resulted in enhanced public safety nor has it deterred drug-related crime nor reduced recidivism by removing drug offenders from the community. The Task Force also chronicled the numerous “collateral” effects of current drug policy, including the erosion of public health, compromises in civil rights, clogging of the courts, disproportionately adverse effects of drug law enforcement on poor and minority communities, corruption of public officials and loss of respect for the law. Based on those findings, the Task Force concluded that the use of criminal sanctions is an ineffective means to discourage drug use or to address the problems arising from drug abuse, and it is extremely costly in both financial and human terms, unduly burdening the taxpayer and causing more harm to people than the use of drugs themselves.
The Legal Frameworks Group, building on the work of the Criminal Sanctions Task Force, moved beyond the mere criticism of the current drug control regime and set out to lay the foundation for the development of a new, state- level regulatory system to control psychoactive substances that are currently produced and distributed exclusively in illegal markets. The purposes of such a system would be to render the illegal markets in psychoactive substances unprofitable, to improve restricting access by young persons to psychoactive substances and to expand dramatically the opportunities for substance abuse treatment in the community. Those purposes conform to the primary objectives of drug policy reform identified by the King County Bar Association in 2001: to reduce crime and public disorder; to enhance public health; to protect children better; and to use scarce public resources more wisely.”
Preventing Harm From Psychoactive Substance Use.pdf
Vancouver City Council on the 3rd Nov, 2005, unanimously adopted “Preventing Harm From Psychoactive Substance Use,” a plan that, among other things, calls for an end to prohibition and the regulated distribution of cannabis. This is presented from a “harm minimisation” perspective.
Regulation of Psychoactive Substances in Canada.pdf
Health Officers Council of British Columbia
“Alternative models to the regulation of psychoactive substances are being developed, and focus on changes to the supply chain to protect and promote public health.
The models identify the key activities in product acquisition as wholesaling, marketing, and distribution, which link products to consumers. They look at how these activities exert strong influences on producers and retailers, engage in promotion and show how the marketing activities may be more of a problem more than the substances themselves.
These alternate models challenge the belief that for-profit corporations should play a primary role in psychoactive substance trade. Since the for-profit corporations are obliged under law to act only in the “best interests of shareholders” by maximising profits, public health considerations are not drivers. And because the for-profit model compels the maintenance and expansion of sales, to the detriment of health, a different type of enterprise with public health as its primary mandate could be chosen to provide and control psychoactive substances.
There are business models such as publicly owned enterprises, private non-profit enterprises, cooperatives, or community interest companies that could be chosen to manage psychoactive substances. These models have been established to meet common social, economic, and environmental needs: In Canada, energy, water, education, corrections, and health services are predominantly supplied by such models.
For example this approach would allow wholesaling, marketing, and distribution only through a dedicated agency that has primarily a health promotion, protection, and harm minimisation charter. The form and contents of, and information about, substances would be controlled to minimise harms, manage the supply in ways that limit promotions, and provide incentives to develop less harmful products.”
Aspects of Regulation:
The Economics of Drug Legalisation.pdf
If you are an economist you may understand this better than most.
Cannabis Transactions and Law Reform.pdf
A discussion of the impact of violence or robbery in cannabis transactions and relevance to legalisation/regulation in New Zealand.
Should cannabis be taxed and regulated?
“After three-quarters of a century of prohibition, Australia’s cannabis industry is the same financial size as her gold industry, twice the size of her wine industry and three-quarters the size of the nation’s beer industry [1, 24 June 2000 no. 32]. More Australians consume cannabis than any other illicit drug. Of the 15 million Australians aged 14 years and over, 5.7 million report having ever used cannabis and 2.6 million report using cannabis in the 12 months prior to interview . Criminal sanctions for people cultivating, selling or consuming cannabis enjoyed strong community support for many years. Civil penalties are now more generally favoured. One of the major problems with either option is the preservation of a criminal supply source for an industry with an annual turnover estimated to be $5 billion , representing 1% of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product.”
The Beckley Foundation is a charitable trust that promotes the investigation of consciousness and its modulation from a multidisciplinary perspective. The research we support aims to make significant theoretical advances that will also help develop practical applications: to ameliorate mental illness; comfort the dying; and enhance health, creativity and well-being. The mainstay of the foundation’s work is to direct and support world-class research into the practices used to alter our conscious state, and the policies that seek to regulate some of these practices. Our activities include:
Initiating and directing scientific and policy research programmes
Hosting high level seminars
Writing academic reports
Creating networks of academics, professionals, and policymakers
Disseminating information to academics, health professionals, policymakers and the public
Maintaining a website which contains all our publications, as well as an extensive online library with over 10,000 scientific papers and articles.
In 2006, our website was selected by the British Library for inclusion in its Website Preservation Programme. The Beckley Foundation was founded and is directed by Amanda Feilding, Lady Neidpath.
A Hemp Embassy culling of the material above for a discussion paper. We are seeking considered comment for a serious effort at a credible solution. Email us with “Regulation Hemp” in the subject line if you have input.