The Criminal Cannabis Law Mystique

Across the pond, just one in four people caught with cannabis are charged by police, new figures reveal. Arrests and cautions have fallen by almost half and charges have dropped by a third since 2010. Research shows that in England, prosecution levels have fallen dramatically over the last five years, despite the number of people using the drug skyrocketing. Some police forces in England have said they are not looking to seek out people who use cannabis. In England and Wales, police are lenient towards marijuana users. I like fish and chips, and I like what I’m learning about how other countries experiment with criminal justice reform and cannabis.

Here’s the truth dispensed in a large dosage: Legalizing marijuana actually reduces crime. In the Sunshine State, for the second time in three years, Floridians will go to the polls in November and weigh in on a planned state constitutional amendment that, if passed, would legalize medical marijuana. A similar proposal failed in 2014 — by less than 3 percentage points — amid fears the amendment’s language was too broad and would have allowed for marijuana use outside of strict medical necessity. Such measures should be even broader if one of the goals is to curb crime.

Florida is now the third largest state in the country and has a conservative governor and legislature. Statewide legalization isn’t going to happen anytime soon, but local governments across the state are enacting reform laws.

We must legalize the currently illegal cannabis plant, regulate, and control it in order to reduce crime and other harmful consequences associated with the War on Drugs. We must learn a lesson from our former Mother Country: Not one of the stated U.S. drug policy goals of lowering the incidence of crime, addiction, drug availability, or juvenile drug use has been achieved.

Prohibition has made our streets less safe because cartels and criminals are fighting for their share of the drug market. Marijuana is the largest export product of Mexican smugglers, and many of them simply lose their source of income. A large share of this crime vanishes when a country legalizes pot.

Enlightenment. It’s an interesting concept. Americans need, yearn, and crave more enlightened cannabis policies. Stringent drug laws rarely affect consumption. Illegal drugs enrich those cartels and underground criminal worlds.

Blanket prohibitions don’t work. The UK drug policy might be arguably more restrictive than the United States but England’s police force — unlike America’s — elects not to enforce the law most of the time. As Henry David Thoreau so astutely commented, “Any fool can make a rule and any fool will mind it.” Don’t be foolish. I’m giving you the green light to do what is right and vote, lobby, and speak up about these issues.