The biggest opponents of the decriminalization of the use of marijuana are big businesses, including the entertainment, beverage and cigarette industries. These industries believe that if marijuana use is legalized, it will result in a massive loss of income, because it will divert monies from entertainment, alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking.
These industries, along with the entertainment sector and mainstream religion, have traditionally used their influence to characterize marijuana as being bad for health, safety and social order. Marijuana has long been presented as a dangerous and addictive narcotic, which results in damage to the body, including mental illness and cancer. It is also said to lead to criminal and anti-social behaviour.
These criticisms are intended to mobilize public opinion against the legalization of marijuana so that big businesses can continue to get the bulk of consumers’ disposable incomes. However, the situation has changed dramatically in recent years. Marijuana use is being legalized in a number of countries. Uruguay and Jamaica are among some of the countries which have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana. Canada has now decriminalized recreational use of marijuana, making it legal to be in possession, within Canada, of up to 30 grammes.
Legal marijuana is now available in nine states in the USA, and in 29 states, medical marijuana is legal. In Argentina, medical marijuana is legal. Canada legalized medical marijuana eight years ago. ‘Big businesses’ were not irritated by these measures because ‘big businesses’ have now found a way to make money out of marijuana. In the USA, legal marijuana is a billion-dollar industry.
‘Big businesses’ are going to take control of the sale and use of legal marijuana and therefore the message is going to change. Marijuana, instead of being bad for you, is going to be presented as being something that you should enjoy.
Once big businesses found a way of commercializing and profiteering from marijuana, it was always going to be legalized. In Guyana, of course, this is not going to happen. Even though it has been pointed out that many youths are languishing in prison because of possession and use of small amounts of narcotics, the Guyana government is procrastinating on legislation to remove custodial sentencing for such offences. But it is clear that the government will eventually allow for non-custodial sentencing for small amounts of marijuana, even though the government has not said how small is small.
However, the APNU+AFC government will never legalize recreational marijuana. It will keep it illegal; but it will allow for persons charged and convicted for possession of small amounts of marijuana to serve non-custodial sentences. But marijuana possession will remain illegal under APNU+AFC.
The best that the Rastafarian community can hope for under APNU+AFC is for non-custodial sentences for marijuana possession. They will never under the present government be given the right to use marijuana for sacramental purposes.
APNU+AFC is not made of such boldness. It is afraid of the social risks, but more so the economic backlash from big business.
Some companies wield political influence. Those companies do not wish to lose sales to marijuana use, and therefore they have managed to convince the government that anything that will encourage an increase in marijuana use is ill-fated.
Governments have to face the electorate. And they do not wish to get on the wrong side of those constituents who portray marijuana as the devil’s poison, and that its use will lead to all kinds of moral and criminal activities which will lead to a breakdown of the family life.
The APNU+AFC coalition is not bothered by the arguments in favour of legalization. The legalization of marijuana will reduce the need to incarcerate and upkeep persons convicted of marijuana use. These persons will no longer be branded as criminals, and therefore have a better chance of leading productive lives.
The legalization of marijuana will end the underground trade and local trafficking in the drug. As some countries are discovering, a way can be found to tax the use of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes.
But those taxes are not likely to compensate for those which are lost from the decline in sales by businesses. As such, governments have to consider the tax implications of legalizing marijuana.
Since the main issue is economic, a cost-benefit analysis needs to be done concerning marijuana. The bottom line is economic. Once the benefits outweigh the costs, then there can be little reason for government not to legalize the use of marijuana.
The Rastafarians are wasting their time trying to convince the APNU +AFC government about the moral and religious grounds for legalizing marijuana. They should try arguing an economic case.
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