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Implementing social justice in the transition from illicit to legal cannabis


Background: The legalization of cannabis for adult use is being increasingly embraced in several countries and local entities. A driving force for these changes has been the individual, family, community, societal, and economic costs of cannabis prohibition, which have fallen most heavily upon disadvantaged minority populations.

Objectives: In this review, we explore whether the legalization of cannabis has begun to correct the injustices of cannabis prohibition. Progress is assessed in five areas of social justice related to cannabis prohibition: expungement of previous arrests and convictions for cannabis-related crimes that are no longer illegal; consequences of cannabis-related offenses in a cannabis-legal environment; diversity of the cannabis-legal industry; funding of equity and/or restorative justice programs for those communities most affected by cannabis prohibition; and risks of cannabis legalization negatively impacting the populations that most suffered under the legacy of cannabis prohibition.

Methods: Iterative and focused review.

Results: There has been some progress in expunging previous cannabis-related convictions, particularly misdemeanors, and decreasing cannabis-related arrests. Encouraging diversity in the cannabis industry and the funding of equity programs has been very limited. There is no evidence to-date that populations that have suffered most as a result of cannabis prohibition are at increased risk from its legalization.

Conclusions: Focused regulatory efforts and financial resources (from both cannabis revenue and savings from the abolition of cannabis prohibition) as well as more attentive data collection and analysis should be utilized to assure that all individuals experience the benefits, and avoid the consequences, of cannabis legalization.

Full article at The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Bryon Adinoff MD

Bryon Adinoff, MD (DFCR Executive Vice President) is an addiction psychiatrist and academician. He was appointed Clinical Professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine following his retirement as Distinguished Professor of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and as a psychiatrist for 30 years with the Department of Veterans Affairs. He has published over 175 papers and book chapters on the neurobiology and treatment of addiction and is Editor-in-Chief of The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. In his semi-retired status, he is evolving from focusing on the consequences of substance use itself to the consequences of the drug war. As a Founding Member, his commitment to the goals of DFCR arises from his desire to ensure that the harsh, punitive prohibition of cannabis use is replaced by a regulatory system that protects both the individual and society.

Posted in DFCR, Research.