Cannabis and other drugs: Legal Framework

Cannabis is the most commonly cultivated and abused drug worldwide, as its consumption has an annual prevalence rate of 147 million individuals and in 2014, approximately 22.2 million Americans 12 or older reported cannabis use. Controversies surrounding ethical implications associated with use, packaging, adverse health consequences attributed to marijuana and therapeutic indications represent some of the complexities associated with marijuana. The Cannabis Act creates a strict legal framework across Canada, aiming to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth and protect public health by allowing adults access to legal cannabis, as of October 17, 2018.  Ontario’s new rules state that recreational cannabis has been made legal by the Federal Government, but there are rules in place to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth and combat the illegal market, after extensive public and stakeholder engagement.


The use, sale, and possession of cannabis in the United States is illegal for any reason, as the Schedule I drug (legal term marijuana) is considered to have no accepted medical purpose, but individual states have enacted legislation permitting exemptions for medical use. Medical cannabis will continue to be subject to different rules, while the Cannabis plant used for recreational purposes can be used by vaporizing or as an extract for mental and physical effects such as a general change in perception and an increase in appetite. Even as several states allow marijuana, under the scheduling system, it’s perceived to have no medical value, having a classification which puts in the same category as a more restrictive category than drugs like meth.


The effects last for between two and six hours and may include a decrease in short-term memory, impaired motor skills and feelings of anxiety, as well as addiction and behavioral problems, but studies have found a strong relation between cannabis use and the risk of psychosis as well. It may be helpful to think of the scheduling system as a nonmedical group of drugs which are considered to have no medical value and a medical group which have some medical value. In 2013, between 128 and 232 million people used cannabis, as it is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States and in 2016, 51% of people in the U.S. had used cannabis.


The Agricultural Act of 2014 allows for state-level departments of agriculture to cultivate cannabis and as a psychoactive drug it continues to find extensive favor among medical users. The earliest recorded date from the 3rd millennium BC and the possession and sale of cannabis has been subject to legal restrictions, including medical which takes place in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and 31 U.S. states. The federal government doesn’t view marijuana and heroin as equally dangerous, as schedule 1 and 2 drugs are described as having a high potential for abuse, so the distinction between substances is their medical value.


Limited data suggest that health care providers also may consider this therapy as in the United States it is approved for medicinal use in 28 states, as well as Puerto Rico, and the use of medicinal cannabis continues to evolve.

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