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Since California legalized the sale of medicinal marijuana in 1996, 22 more states plus the District of Columbia have followed suit. In the coming years that number is likely to increase. Elsewhere in the world cannabis is increasingly gaining legal status and is now available medicinally in much of Europe, South America and soon Australia. As more places legalize, questions intensify around regulation and protection.

“Such rules should depend on which of legalization’s benefits a jurisdiction wants to prioritize and what harms it wants to minimize. The first consideration is how much protection users need. As far as anyone has been able to establish (and some have tried very hard indeed) it is as good as impossible to die of a marijuana overdose. But the drug has downsides. Being stoned can lead to other calamities: in the past two years Colorado has seen three deaths associated with cannabis use (one fall, one suicide and one alleged murder, in which the defendant claims the pot made him do it). There may have been more. Colorado has seen an increase in the proportion of drivers involved in accidents who test positive for the drug, though there has been no corresponding rise in traffic fatalities.”

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Those in favor of looser regulations argue that easier access saves police money, raises tax revenue, thwarts criminals, and extends personal freedom to holistically medicate. Others believe, however, that laws should discourage consumption.

“Danger and harm are not in themselves a reason to make or keep things illegal. But the available evidence persuades many supporters of legalization that cannabis consumption should still be discouraged. The simplest way to do so is to keep the drug expensive; children and heavy users, both good candidates for deterrence, are particularly likely to be cost sensitive. And keeping prices up through taxes has political appeal that goes beyond public health.

Can patients easily access medicinal marijuana in your state? Read this report.

Photo by Greta Schölderle Møller on Unsplash