To many, cannabis legalization and decriminalization are the same. But as professionals in the industry, we know the two are very different. One is a quick fix, and the other can dramatically overhaul a community — yet both are big steps on the path toward a 420-friendly future.
However, legislation surrounding cannabis use is constantly changing. For this reason, it can be tough and confusing for businesses to successfully navigate the changing landscape of full legalization or simple decriminalization. Fortunately, we’re here to help.
Here’s everything cannabusiness owners need to know about legalization and decriminalization.
The Realities of Cannabis Decriminalization
When it comes to cannabis legalization, decriminalization is a quick fix. Similar to a Band-Aid on a large wound, decriminalization only solves part of the problem. Nothing is done to facilitate a legal market for cannabis and no framework for regulation or taxation is offered.
Without a regulated market, the illicit sale of cannabis will continue to exist. Although users may no longer be criminally prosecuted, there will still be those who benefit from unregulated products that are not required to guarantee safety.
Furthermore, decriminalization itself is a forward-thinking idea and does nothing for previous offenders. Only the expungement of previous offenses can completely remove cannabis users from the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, decriminalization and expungement don’t always go hand in hand.
In fact, there are 26 states (including the District of Columbia) that have decriminalization laws on the books. However, of those states, only 15 have legislation expunging, vacating, or otherwise removing past offenses from the public view.
Although decriminalization is not an outright fix to this problem, it can be a stepping stone. Decriminalization can be used as a tactic to make progress toward full legalization. Here in the United States, we are living in one of the most politically charged times in our history. As a result, partisanship is bound to get in the way of cannabis legalization.
When full legalization or even just medicinal use is held up, a decriminalization bill can work to satisfy legislators on both sides of the aisle. Such a bill would take huge burdens off of law enforcement, the judiciary, and the all-important taxpayer.
Decriminalization may only be a quick fix, but if it’s all that can be done — or all that some are willing to do — it’s still a step in the right direction.
How Full Cannabis Legalization Does More
Full legalization is the real deal. Legislation legalizing the recreational use — or even medicinal use — of cannabis lays the groundwork for a safe, regulated, and taxed cannabis industry.
Cannabis legalization benefits both communities and economies alike. In fact, the significant tax revenue that comes from cannabis is one of the strongest arguments for full legalization. For instance, in 2019, California boasted more than $600 million in tax revenue from cannabis. Additionally, Washington has seen an influx of more than $1.3 billion since the state legalized cannabis back in 2012.
That being said, money isn’t the only reason for legalizing cannabis. Full legalization helps communities heal from the devastation of the war on drugs. For decades, communities have been ravaged with cannabis-related criminal charges and plagued by the dangers of unregulated and sometimes unsafe products.
Of course, legalization allows members of these affected communities to enjoy their cannabis freely, but it also does more than that. Cannabis legalization allows these individuals to succeed in the industry with a product that they’ve known for so long. Through social equity programs, many states are creating even more opportunities for minorities to succeed in marijuana.
Cannabis Legalization & Decriminalization Going Forward
Full cannabis legalization is the way of the future — there’s no getting around it. The best option is to accept and recognize legalization in your community. You’ll find that many legislators are beginning to realize this as well.
Lawmakers in Congress have introduced legislation to further legalization efforts. In particular, the STATES Act decriminalizes state-legal cannabis on a federal level. Somewhat of a “decriminalization-plus” act, the STATES Act requires federal funding of research into the safety of cannabis use. With plenty of states in which cannabis is legal, the data to determine its safety is surely there.
Cannabis is here to stay and so is confusion surrounding legalization and decriminalization laws — at least for now. Any new legislation can alter or disrupt an already-established industry. At Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting, we have the know-how to help you navigate this changing landscape.
Book a consultation today and learn how your operation can handle any legal challenge.