Back in 2007, when the legalization of cannabis for therapeutic use was making its way in the most progressive states of the United States, President Barack Obama was still reluctant. But he made this clear: “I am not going to have the Justice Department hunt down and detain medical marijuana users. It would not be a good use of our resources ”. This opened the first crack in the war on drugs that Richard Nixon had declared in 1967, in a troubled decade whose social changes were difficult for conservatives to assimilate.
When Obama said that, in California cannabis derivatives – hashish and marijuana – could be obtained legally if a doctor prescribed them. As the herb was indicated for a wide range of cases – sick in chemotherapy, with ALS or glaucoma, but also headaches, asthma or sleep disorders – the business of the doctors who prescribed it flourished, and they were advertised with colorful posters with the profile of the famous leaf. That reef for doctors ended in 2018, when it was approved, in the wake of Colorado, to allow recreational consumption. It was no longer necessary to say that it was difficult for one to sleep, who would deny that, to go to the dispensary.
After half a century of prohibitionism, the decriminalization of cannabis has made its way into the world for three roads. The first is to stop persecuting consumers, which has spread to many countries; the second, the regulation of the product for medicinal use, as in Italy, Portugal, Germany, Chile or Colombia; the third grabs the bull by the horns and is the legalization of consumption for pleasure or vice, depending on how you look at it. That step has been taken in the last decade by Uruguay, Canada and 16 States of the United States. The Netherlands already did it in the seventies (and that is not why more there). Mexico is working on it.
The More Country bill for a comprehensive cannabis law was rejected by Congress on Tuesday: supported by Podemos, Ciudadanos and almost all nationalists, it was blocked by PSOE , PP and Vox. In the debate, Íñigo Errejón paraphrased Adolfo Suárez: “It is about regulating what is already normal in the street.” Socialists, fearful perhaps of the use that the right would make of this issue against them, prefer to refer to the commission promoted by the PNV to study the therapeutic use of the plant. They do not want to skip the middle season.
Cannabis is indicated for patients with serious ailments, to whom only the most intransigent will deny the relief it provides. It is difficult to explain that its compassionate use has not already been legislated in Spain, except for the fear that it is a drain for all types of users. The California experience suggests that comprehensive and vigilant regulation is more honest and transparent. Joints are not at all safe, as are other over-the-counter products, not to mention hard but legal drugs like opioids, which in the US have created a public health crisis reminiscent of heroin in the US. eighty.
The question, as a hesitant Obama suggested in 2007, is whether the persecution of cannabis does more harm than it prevents. Because the substance is readily available and, in many areas, well accepted; because the most common consumption is not very problematic for society and, above all, because the heavy-handed laws have enriched the drug trafficking mafias and have preyed on the humble, punished for retailing or possession of small amounts.
Obama’s opinion, by the way, evolved over time. In 2014, he told David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker : “As is known, I smoked weed when I was young, and I see it as a bad habit and a vice, not unlike cigarettes. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol ”. The United States has safely abandoned a repressive tradition. It is surprising that Spain is left behind in this debate, when in other challenges it has wanted to be in the line of the most advanced.
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