Editorial | Legalise it, part two

Legalising pot, we wrote in this space back in July 2009, would have two obvious benefits: generating revenue and dragging a shady business out into the light.

Nearly three years later those arguments remain stronger than ever – the state is running at a deficit and the flare-ups between the gangsters that deal the stuff have become routine.

Unfortunately, despite the change in government, the message coming from parliament also remains the same: no.

We still support legalising cannabis, but with this proposal, the third of its kind since 2007, apparently doomed to failure as well, itÂ’s time to begin asking some critical questions about the practicalities of the idea, and whether itÂ’s not legal pot that MPs have a hard time swallowing, but hazily formulated proposals.

If any government were to agree to legalising cannabis, it would be this one. In office for less than two months, it has already shown itself to be vastly more progressive than the VenstreKonservative alliance that rejected the two previous legalisation proposals. Specifically on the drugs front, the Socialdemokraterne-led government has already expressed a willingness to allow for the creation of injection rooms, where IV drug users can shoot up in a safe, clean environment.

However, why a party with a progressive attitude towards drugs can be against legal pot may say more about the proposalÂ’s delivery than its content.

A closer look at the proposal passed by the City Council last week reveals clear goals – influence the consumption, better information about the effects of cannabis, faster help for addicts, limit the number of people graduating from cannabis to hard drugs and limit drug-related crime – but a total absence of suggestions for how any of this could happen.

By not putting forth specific ideas for how legal cannabis would be sold, regulated or taxed, the Socialistisk Folkeparti, which tabled the proposal, makes it easy for opponents to reject it as the pie-in-the-sky dreams of ageing hippies, dopey potheads and unrealistic Christiania sympathisers, rather than a serious plan for preventing drug abuse, stopping crime and earning money.

One of the most basic questions the proposal leaves untouched is how the cannabis would be sold. Would it be limited to chemists, who would have the authority to register purchases?  Or would city-licensed dispensaries suffice? Would a successful pilot project lead to the general sale of cannabis in the same manner as cigarettes, tobacco and painkillers?

There are strong arguments in favour of legalising cannabis. But there are also strong arguments against. Most of the arguments on both sides can be applied to any manner of natural substance – be it pot, alcohol or caffeine – but given the legal bias against cannabis, winning the war for this drug will require a clearly stated strategy for every aspect of its legalisation, not some half-baked proposal.

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