The Effect of the Legal Sale and Distribution of Marijuana on Spanish culture in the Last Decade

This essay hopes to outlinesome of the effects that the legalisation of marijuana could have on thecountry both socially and economically; as well as look to the future possibleoutcomes. The legalisation of marijuana has been a controversial topic all overthe world and as more countries and states begin to relax or completely abolishlegal restrictions on the drug. This controversyhas recently extended to the issue of medical uses of marijuana, namely, smoking of marijuana to relieve various symptoms (Hollister, 2000). Even despite this it is probably themost widely and commonly used illegal drug in the world. A survey done by theNational Survey on Drug use and Health in 2015 showed that in one month 22.2million people used the drug.Since the early 1990’s,several Spanish associations have experimented with self-cultivation ofmarijuana for their members (Decorte, 2011).

The legal sale and distribution ofmarijuana in Spain could not be possible without the birth of social clubs.While it was common belief that these clubs existed through some form of legalloop hole, this isn’t true. It is in fact Spanish constitution that allows theformation of these clubs. Spain has extremely liberal constitutional privacyprotections. In summary, what these laws state (among other things) is thatwhat one does is the privacy of one’s home is no one else’s business. Theseprivacy laws have been tested in the courts and the result has been that if youwant to grow a few plants in your home or other private location, out of viewof the public. then that’s acceptable (Hudson, 2016). Spaniards also havethe Right to Association which means that people with similar interest may formtogether and make groups or clubs.

This lead to multiple people groupingtogether to pay for lots and grow their allotted plants. While this may be constitutionallyokay, if caught the possession and distribution of marijuana was still legaland hundreds of people have been arrested and fined as a result, in 2006members of a club were arrested and their crop requisitioned, months later thejudge decided that there was no crime because they removed the criminal saleaspect cutting profits for those who sell drugs illegally, “it is a consumption modality among addicts in which thepossibility of transmission to third parties is discarded” (Pérez-Lanzac, 2008). In 2008 andpart of 2009 a study was carried out on the capacity of drug user organisationsto influence policy dialogue (Decorte, 2011). They outlined manydifficulties encountered by Spanish cannabis organisations from lack ofpolitical strategy training to social stigma. In the time over the course ofthe last decade, with each autonomous community able to set its own laws oncannabis; consequently, on Friday 30th of June Catalonia passed alaw enabling a network of co-operatives to legally oversee the legal use,distribution and cultivation of cannabis.

Cultivation, supply and consumptionmust all take place in private. No forms of advertising are allowed. Membershipis restricted to adults who are already cannabis consumers and potentialmembers must be sponsored by another member to join.

Members must be registeredfor 15 days before cannabis can be bought. Clubs must keep a register ofmembers and limit the amount cultivated for each member to 60 grams a monthmaximum for those aged over 21 and 20 grams a month maximum for those aged 18to 21. These maximums do not apply to therapeutic use (Daly, 2017).

Spain’s cannabis laws have been progressively liberalized to the point whereSpain is now one of the most cannabis – friendly countries in all of Europe.Despite all this, the ‘restrictions’ stipulating who can buy marijuana, somecities such as Barcelona now have more than 200 cannabis clubs, are gainingstatus as “New Amsterdam” in weed tourism circles Because of the ease of accessand privacy allowed these clubs are becoming a safe place for tourist to smokeas well. The first thing to remember is that while these clubs have been aroundfor a while, legalisation in Spain only happened a few months ago so there isonly small amounts of research and evidence available to analyse. To bridgethis gap, analysis of similar countries and states will be used as comparisonand to make guesses towards possible effects it could have in Spain.

The first obvious and blatanteffect is the factor of health, the main method of taking marijuana is smokingit, the obvious and proven health risk of smoking any material has been provenwithout a doubt; therefor the legalisation of a substance in which you aresupposed to smoke could be promoting a health risk. However, while medicalmarijuana and cannabinoids have significant health risks as well as manypotential medical benefits (Hill, 2015),and even so,with these all the risks there still has not been a single reported death wherethe cause has been marijuana overdose. With legalisation comes moreavailable and wider spread research of the drug, medical marijuana can be takenin a number of ways; from oral spray, to food and also vape pens, all of whichcan be shown to be more healthy way to take marijuana.

Data frommore than 40 clinical trials of marijuana and cannabinoids have been published;beyond the 2 indications for which dronabinol and nabilone are already approvedby the FDA, the strongest evidence exists for the use of marijuana andcannabinoids as pharmacotherapies for chronic pain, neuropathic pain, andspasticity associated with multiple sclerosis (Hill, 2015).As long as each patients case is evaluated properly by their doctor, there isno reason that these methods can not only help the patients but are even moreeffective in some cases, some patients are able to report switching 3 to 4medically prescribed pills for one marijuana based treatment. One of the healthconsiderations that need to be considered is the possible extra strain that theincrease in use could do to the health services themselves. One thing to thinkabout is the long-term health benefits that come from people feeling they areable to seek help, it has been seen that addicts are more likely to comeforward and seek rehabilitation when they do not feel they will be judged orpersecuted for their use.  A study in theUnited States showed that while it is true, that in cases of residents instates where marijuana is legal had higher odds of both using marijuana andmarijuana abuse / dependence; marijuana abuse / dependence was in fact notfound to be  more prevalent among the regularmarijuana users in these states, suggesting that the higher risk of abuse ordependence was simply accounted for by the general higher use in these states (Cerdá, et al., 2012). In Colorado between2011 and 2013 an increase in the number of emergency room visits that relatedto marijuana rose by 57% (Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, 2014). This has beenspeculated to have been caused by a number of things, the first is the factthat because it is legal this means for someone to be intoxicated in public orother situations where it might not be appropriate there are now only socialpersecution not legal.

Add this to the fact it is even now becoming moresocially tolerable, this causes more frequent and relaxed use of the drug andmay cause more frequent accidents. Second is caused by the allowances for openexperimentation has caused a spike in the strength of the marijuana, causinginexperienced users to ingest high amounts of THC and seek medical aid.Considering the other side of this we can now reduce situations in whichdealers add extra dangerous substances to the marijuana, because of more freesharing of knowledge and regulations now put in place, because it is a legalsubstance and therefore under the laws of sale and distribution, users can besure that they are buying a safe to consume product. KristinAichinger, Cultivation Manager at Green Man Cannabis, said: “One majorfactor is how clean our weed is. Here in Colorado, the fruit and vegetables onyour counter have more pesticides and non-organic chemicals than the weed inyour joint. We have outrageously strict testing regulations here.

The weed isalso tested for mould and mildew, and potency levels are a legal requirement onour packaging” (Cedar, 2016).The thirdis the increase of driving while intoxicated. Marijuana has been proven to havea negative effect on reaction time, awareness and cognitive capabilities,therefor it could be theorised that by legalising the substance you willincrease the risk of people being intoxicated while they drive which in turnincreases accidents. In Western countries, cannabinoids are the most frequentlyencountered illicit drugs detected in the blood of impaired or injured drivers,leading to awareness that these substances are detrimental to safe driving (Bondallaz, et al., 2016). Coloradosaw the biggest estimated increase in claim frequency compared with its controlstates.

After retail marijuana sales began in Colorado, the increase incollision claim frequency was 14 percent higher than in nearby Nebraska, Utahand Wyoming. Washington’s estimated increase in claim frequency was 6 percenthigher than in Montana and Idaho, and Oregon’s estimated increase in claimfrequency was 4 percent higher than in Idaho, Montana and Nevada. In spite ofthis it was also found that Three years after recreational marijuana legalisation,changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado werenot statistically different from those in similar states without recreationalmarijuana legalisation (Aydelotte, et al., 2017). When looking at thetotal outcomes though, it is important to look at the whole picture,governments spend massive amounts of money each year prosecuting and housingoffenders with only convictions relating to marijuana. Medical marijuana isassociated with significant drops in violent crime. Looking at crime data from11 states in the west, seven of which had medical marijuana laws before 2009,they see “no evidence of significant, negative spill over effects from MMLs oncrime.” Instead, they suspect a fall in the involvement of criminalorganizations after marijuana is legalized for medical use and conclude, “MMLslikely produce net benefits for society.

” (Trilling, 2016). In Uruguay theytake the health risk very seriously and have much stricter rules on who, whenand why some one can purchase marijuana, the main aim of the implementation inUruguay was to take money out of the illicit drug market but they do not wantto increase use or increase risk of addiction. the Uruguayan government hasrecognised, a balance needs to be struck when it comes to the restrictivenessof its regulations. Too restrictive (with prices too high, limited availabilityetc.), and people are likely to carry on purchasing cannabis from the illicit market;not restrictive enough (with prices too low, over-availability etc.

), andpeople are likely to consume more cannabis or start using the drug for thefirst time (Transform, 2014).Thisleads to the next largest factor effected by the legalisation of cannabis whichis crime. As stated earlier some judges, especially in Spain, believe thatself-cultivation and consumption is not a crime because it takes money out ofthe hands of real criminals. It also reduces the chance that hard drug dealerswill be able to take advantage of a marijuana users addiction, to either makemoney off them or force them to commit other crimes as payment. Marijuana relatedarrests in Colorado fell from 12,894 in 2012, when voters approved legalisation,to 7,004 in 2014, the first year of legal recreational sales—a 46percent decrease. Marijuana related charges filed in Colorado courts fell81 percent between 2012 and 2015, from 10,340 to 1,954. Those dramatic changessaved thousands of people from unjust punishment and channelled law enforcementresources toward activities with a bigger public safety payoff (Sullum, 2016). Despite manypeoples worry that the legalisation of marijuana would drastically increase crimerates when legalisation first happened in America, there have been studies thatshow the opposite in certain areas.

To be sure, medical marijuana laws were not found to have a crimeexacerbating effect on any of the seven crime types. On the contrary, ourfindings indicated that MML precedes a reduction in homicide and assault. Itconforms to the longstanding notion that marijuana legalisation may lead to areduction in alcohol use due to individuals substituting marijuana for alcohol.Given the relationship between alcohol and violent crime, it may turn out thatsubstituting marijuana for alcohol leads to minor reductions in violent crimesthat can be detected at the state level (Morris, et al., 2014).A criminal aspect that could occur, both from the issues caused between stateand country or federal laws; and the restrictions used in countries such asHolland. Perhaps the most justifiable concern with the coffee shop system isthe ‘backdoor problem’, whereby sales of cannabis are tolerated (the drug canleave the coffee shops via the front door), but production and cultivation(i.

e. the supply chain that leads up to the back door of the coffee shops)remain prohibited. This has led to concerns about the links between the coffeeshops and organised crime. However, if there is any truth in the claims aboutsuch links, it is almost entirely because of the legal paradox in whichsupplying cannabis to the coffee shops is a criminal act, while selling cannabisvia the shops is (effectively) not (Rolles, 2014). They have a similar problem in theUnited States because while states have legalized it, it is still a federalcrime and even without this confusing state of affairs, it can become a problemin situations where a truck might leave and arrive with perfectly legal cargo,but they have to drive through states where they can be stopped and searchedand ultimately arrested. This leads official companies to be hesitant to takemarijuana business, leaving these companies little choice but to make the runthemselves or hirer someone using an illegal method of smuggling the shipmentfrom A to B (The Legend of 420, 2017). These situationsarise because of poor preparation and implementation by these countriesgovernments, in some states there have been reports of criminals using thelegal areas as “safe havens” to grow and cultivate their crops, then smugglingthe product into a state where it is illegal and charging inflated prices inthese areas. Illegal drug traffickers are growing weed among the state’ssanctioned pot warehouses and farms, then covertly shipping it elsewhere andpocketing millions of dollars from the sale, according to law enforcementofficials and court records consulted by The Associated Press (Associated Press, 2016).

It has allowed forloopholes that even still can be seen as punishing to those who wish to legallyuse marijuana in peace and the criminals who profit from a flawed system.A factor heavily talked aboutby those opposed to the legalisation of marijuana is the social effects. Whileside effects can vary from strain to strain some are more common than others, sideeffects such as paranoia, loss of cognitive ability and slower mental reactioncan make social situations difficult especially between someone who isintoxicated and someone who is not. A study in Massachusetts looked at socialinteractions of adult males who were given free access to marijuana. Datarelevant to social interaction and recreational preferences were collected athourly intervals. Moderate users consumed an average of 2.6 cigarettes per dayand showed both acute and persistent (21-day) decrements in social interaction.Heavy users consumed 5.

7 cigarettes per day but indicated fewer socialreactions. The results suggested that marijuana inhibits social interaction inmoderate users but behavioural tolerance in heavy users may mitigate this effect(Babor, et al., 2009). While this studymay demonstrate that legalisation of recreational marijuana might not havesignificant social effects on those users who are already considered heavy userand developed some behavioural tolerance, however new users to moderate usersmay be at higher risk of feeling these social effects. Other issues that canoccur from the side effects such as lack of cognitive ability and memory losscan have highly damaging consequences for people in education and a lack ofmotivation and aspirations can cause people to leave or never pursue education.

This could have a knock-on effect that could come to fruition decades down theline. A study into the effect of THC on learning in adolescent and adult ratsfound thatacute treatment with THC inhibited both spatial and non-spatial learning in thewater maze more powerfully in male adolescent rats than in male adults.However, chronic THC treatment, either during adolescence or adulthood, had noeffect on subsequent learning four weeks after the termination of THC exposure (Cha, et al., 2006). Afinal factor to consider is that, with the legal sale and distribution ofmarijuana comes the ability to tax the product. Which in turn gives money backto the government, In Colorado, the state saw a 57.

2% increase in the totalmarijuana taxes collected from FY 2015-16 to FY 2016-17 year-to-date as ofJanuary. The retail sales tax alone increased 51.4% for the same period. Thestate collected $119 million in taxes as of January for its year-to-date fiscalyear. Compare this to only $38 million collected on alcohol of at least 11months in 2016. The money is being put to good use by the state.

For example,Colorado was able to put $16 million towards Affordable Housing Grants andLoans in 2016 from cannabis tax collections (Borchardt, 2017). In California they have used the moneygained from the tax to; give extra training police and high way patrol, givingmoney to the communities most affected by the war on drugs and youth drugprevention and education. Massachusetts plans to put the money back intoschools, veteran services and law enforcement and treatment methods and Nevadawill bolster its schools and public education (Robinson, 2016). With all this in mind theCatalonian government need to be careful and take a look at the systems theyalready have in place to ensure they can prevent the negative effects andenhance the positive, for example, to help prevent people driving whileintoxicated they need to be properly educated as they are with alcohol andother legal drugs. Increased education will also decrease the chance ofemergency room visits, proper labelling of the products to show THC contentwill also aid in this endeavour.

Even when taking prescription medication, youare sometimes advised what you can and can not do while under the effects. We findconsiderable international evidence that education is strongly linked to healthand to determinants of health such as health behaviours, risky contexts and preventativeservice use (Feinstein, et al., 2006).

This also links tothe next preventative which is the proper tools and training given to theirpolice force to be able to detect and have a strict guideline as to how to actin given situations. This flows straight into the next measure, that it hasbeen made clear is an issue in all countries that currently have relaxed to nolaws restricting marijuana, which is how to control the issues caused by thesystem of automated communities. In situations like the one Spain is in nowwhere one of its seventeen communities have legalised marijuana, even ignoringall of the history of these clubs throughout Spain, with the rapid growth inthe number of these clubs in Catalonia since legalisation, it would be naïve tothink that none of these clubs is funded or run by illegal organisations. It isthere for not that far of a jump to consider the possibility that these clubsmay be illegally exporting their product to countries or states where marijuanaisn’t legal. They need to closely consider the way they implement and managethis to ensure law abiding users are the ones that benefit not the criminals.This goes from state to state all the way down to social clubs. From looking atAmerica alone it is clear to see that both the government and the people canbenefit from the tax generated from the legal distribution of marijuana.

Aslong as the Catalonian and Spanish governments are able to bring balanced andfair tax rates and correctly introduce them to the already thriving communityof smokers in Spain, there is no end to the improvements that can be made tomultiple sectors of the Spanish economy. In conclusion, there is no definitive answer towhether the legalisation of marijuana is going to be more negative or morepositive effect. It is for certain thought that as more and more states andcountries begin to relax or abolish their restrictions and laws againstmarijuana, governments all over the world can no longer ignore this growingissue and they can not continue to fight this change. In Spain there seems tobe a much longer living knowledge and acceptance for those who safely andprivately consume marijuana, because of this there may be a much quickerprogression from state to state. The main benefit of legalisation in all statesand countries where it appears seems to be those that help the people alreadyusing and already addicted. As long as the Catalonian government keep focus onresearch, improving medical and education services they can ensure the safe useof marijuana can be achieved for their citizens. Looking forward to the futurethe Spanish government must prepare for the eventuality that other states mayfollow Catalonia’s lead, if properly anticipated they can make the properpreparations to ensure smooth transition; and in the long run legalisation canhelp lower organised crime, increase knowledge and be used to improve the lifeand medical care.

  

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