La legalización del cannabis es ya una realidad en varios estados y países, pero es necesario encontrar un equilibrio entre la urgencia de aplicar reformas y el riesgo de actuar con demasiada rapidez. Más información, en inglés, está disponible abajo.
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Cannabis legalisation has finally been realized in various states and nations and it is expected that this trend should continue for quite some time. However, there is a balance to strike between the urgency of implementing reforms and the risks of moving too hastily. The steps forward that any jurisdiction takes will depend on the nature of the existing market, policy frameworks, and social and political environment. Early adopters will doubtless face different challenges to those that come later. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and no silver bullets.
1. Establish an independent commission of experts to work through the detail of policy development
Relevant authorities should establish an independent commission of domestic and international experts to identify key issues and make broad recommendations on reforming cannabis policy. Expertise should come from a broad range of fields, including: public health and service provision, market regulation, drug policy, international and domestic law, legal cannabis production, agriculture, environmental science, and monitoring and evaluation. This panel can then evolve into a dedicated task force to oversee and make recommendations on the detail of policy and its implementation.
2. Establish a comprehensive methodology to evaluate policy impacts and outcomes
Meaningful and measurable performance indicators should be established for all aspects of the market and its functioning. Impact monitoring and evaluation should be adequately resourced and built into the regulatory framework from the outset. Wider impacts, such as changes in prevalence or patterns of cannabis use (particularly among young people), levels of crime, expenditure and revenue, should also be evaluated on an ongoing basis. Such monitoring should be used to ensure policy, and in particular any policy changes, are subject to regular review, and that the flexibility and willingness exists to adapt approaches in light of emerging evidence.
3. Ensure structures and capacity are in place to enforce the new regulatory framework
There should be adequate institutional capacity to ensure compliance with regulatory frameworks, once they are established. This will require trained and experienced staff, management and oversight, and sufficient budgets for regulatory agencies. Given all the areas cannabis regulation will touch on, either an existing agency will need to co-ordinate between all relevant government departments, or a new umbrella body will need to be created.
4. Decriminalising personal possession and home growing can be useful transitional measures
There is a range of reforms that can be undertaken within the parameters of existing international law, including decriminalisation of personal possession and use with provisions for home growing and cannabis social clubs. Such measures can be implemented relatively easily, and even if their positive impacts are more modest, they demonstrate a political will to embrace reform, do not carry a significant regulatory burden, and are supported by a useful and growing evidence base.
5. Meet existing demand by ensuring new legal market supply at least roughly mirrors illegal market supply
When a jurisdiction is willing or able to negotiate the existing hurdles of international law, the priority at the outset should be to meet adult demand as it currently exists. That means a legal market that approximately mirrors the existing illegal market in terms of product range, price and availability. A level of government intervention and market control to ensure this is possible is a minimum requirement. Any major departures from this model are likely to have unpredictable, potentially negative impacts. Changes to the market, for whatever reason, should be introduced incrementally thereafter, and closely evaluated.
As a starting point, err on the side of more restrictive models, and a greater level of government control, then move forward on the basis of careful evaluation, aiming to move to less restrictive or interventionist models once new social norms and social controls around legal cannabis markets have been established. From a pragmatic and political perspective, this is preferable to the reverse scenario of needing to retroactively introduce more restrictive controls due to inadequate regulation.
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