Weed, grass, blaze, pot, reefer, cannabis, dope, mary jane, ganja, herb, and chronic. Marijuana can go by many different names that are known the world over to users and non-users alike.
It is a plant based psychoactive drug that has been used since the Neolithic Age for various purposes (textiles, religious ceremonies, pleasure, mystical pursuits, artistic inspiration, and medicinal treatments) and is observed to be the most produced, sold, ingested, and confiscated narcotic on the planet.
Every year at least 192.2 million people worldwide partake in marijuana consumption and the repercussions for doing so vary widely depending on where you live. In Canada, South Africa, Uruguay, and a basket of American states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington) it is completely legal for recreational, medicinal, and commercial purposes. Meanwhile in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and China the penalties for simple possession can involve coercive state run rehabilitation programs, a substantial prison sentence, or even the death penalty if recidivism or trafficking are tied to the “criminal”.
In between the extremes of complete legalization and total criminalization we see many countries in the world struggling to find a path that balances compassion without normalization, utilization without abuse, and liberalization without hedonism. Globally, there is a trend towards legalization but the political will of legislators favours incrementalism and caution in dealing with mind-altering drugs. This is the biggest obstacle facing marijuana advocates, doctors, business people, farmers, and simple users in their goal of legalization for various purposes.
The political issues surrounding marijuana primarily revolve around who is permitted to produce, transport, sell, and use it and, most importantly, for what reasons. The consequences for disobedience vary, and the models by which legalization can occur are still in their relative infancy, but are largely based on the political socialization of the country in question. Some favour a completely free market approach (where there are virtually no restrictions at all) while others pursue a governmentally controlled cannabis market that focuses on state cultivation and distribution.
Is marijuana harmful? Should it be legalized, decriminalized, or illegal? How do we balance individual liberty against the public good? Is it really a “victimless crime”? How much, and what kind, of governmental regulation should be placed on marijuana? Does it solve, or create, social, economic, and political problems? What should we make of the health concerns attached to it? And how important is this issue in the context of competing issues?
This publication includes a diverse array of thoughtful political opinions and addresses these questions for the enlightenment and education of our readers and contributors. In this, our inaugural issue, we explore the topic of marijuana legalization and the controversies, arguments, and possible solutions that can be utilized to create consensus going forward.