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Legality of cannabis

The legality of cannabis has been the subject of debate and controversy for decades. Cannabis is illegal to consume, use, possess, cultivate, transfer or trade in most countries. Since the beginning of widespread cannabis prohibition beginning around the turn of the twentieth century,[citation needed] most countries have not re-legalized it for personal use, although more than 10 countries tolerate (or have decriminalized) its use and/or its cultivation in limited quantities. Medicinal use of cannabis is also legal in a number of countries, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Israel and 14 states of the United States.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, most[quantify] countries have enacted laws affecting the legality of cannabis regarding the cultivation, use, possession, or transfer of cannabis for recreational use. A few jurisdictions have lessened the penalties for possession of small quantities of cannabis, so that it is punished by confiscation and a fine, rather than imprisonment. Punishment focuses more on those who traffic and sell the drug on the black market[citation needed]. Some jurisdictions/drug courts use mandatory treatment programs for young or frequent users, with freedom from "narcotic" drugs as the goal. A few jurisdictions permit cannabis use for medicinal purposes. There are also changes in a more restrictive direction as in Canada or the United Kingdom. Drug tests to detect cannabis are increasingly common in many countries, and have resulted in jail sentences and people being fired from their jobs[1]. However, simple possession can carry long jail sentences in some countries, particularly in East Asia, where the sale of cannabis may lead to a sentence of life in prison or even execution.

Under the name cannabis, 19th century medical practitioners sold the drug (usually as a tincture), popularizing the word amongst English-speakers. It was rumored that Queen Victoria's menstrual pains were treated with cannabis; Her personal physician, Sir John Russell Reynolds, wrote an article in the first edition of the medical journal The Lancet about the benefits of cannabis.[2] In 1894, the Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission commissioned by the UK Secretary of State and the government of India, was instrumental in the decision not to criminalize the drug in those countries.[3] From 1906 different states in the United States started to implement regulations for sales of Cannabis indica. In 1925 a change of the International Opium Convention[4] banned exportation of Indian hemp to countries that have prohibited its use. Importing countries were required to issue certificates approving the importation and stating that the shipment was to be used "exclusively for medical or scientific purposes".

In 1937 the F.D. Roosevelt administration crafted the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, the first US national law making cannabis possession illegal via an unpayable tax on the drug.

The name marijuana (Mexican Spanish marijuana, mariguana) is associated almost exclusively with the plant's psychoactive use. The term is now well known in English largely due to the efforts of American drug prohibitionists during the 1920s and 1930s. The prohibitionists deliberately used a Mexican name for cannabis in order to turn the US populace against the idea that it should be legal by playing to negative attitudes towards that nationality. (See 1937 Marihuana Tax Act). Those who demonized the drug by calling it marijuana omitted the fact that the "deadly marijuana" was identical to cannabis indica, which had at the time a reputation for pharmaceutical safety.[5] It should be noted, however, that due to variations in the potency of the preparations, cannabis indica in the 1930s had lost most of its former popularity as a medical drug.[6]

Some[who?] advocate legalization of cannabis, believing that it will reduce illegal trade & associated crime and yield a valuable tax-source. Cannabis is now available as a palliative agent, in Canada, with a medical prescription. In 1969, only 16% percent of voters in the USA supported legalization, according to a poll by Gallup. According to the same source, that number had risen to 36% by 2005.[7] More recent polling indicates that the number has risen even further since the financial crisis of 2007-2009: in 2009, between 46% and 56% of US voters would support legalization.

Detection and the law

As cannabis and its cultivation are illegal in most parts of the world, considerable resources and effort are committed to both interdiction and counter-interdiction of cultivation. Thermal imaging helicopters, to detect hot lighting, inspection of trash, to find evidence of cultivation including waste plant matter, examination of credit card purchases, to find purchases from hydroponic equipment vendors, and analysis of energy bills, to detect energy usage patterns of marijuana growers, have been used in prosecutions. In the US, thermal imaging cameras are considered to violate civil liberties embedded in the United States Constitution. This has resulted in significant changes to growing trends and availability.