Cannabis Needs Regulation, And Plenty Of It — Here's Why
4 min

Cannabis Needs Regulation, And Plenty Of It — Here's Why

4 min

To ensure everyone's experience with cannabis is enjoyable and safe, we need a well-regulated system for the commercialisation of cannabis. Here's why.

Welcome to Zamnesia's Editorials, where our writer, Steven, shares his opinion on all things related to the cannabis, CBD, and smartshop industries. Remember, all the views expressed in these articles are those of the author and don't necessarily reflect the opinions of Zamnesia as a company. To share your opinions with our author and our team, make sure to leave a comment.

More and more people are in favour of legalizing weed. Last year, the Pew Research Center showed that over 60% of Americans[1] were in favour of legalizing cannabis. According to the Independent, more than 3 out of 4 Brits[2] also support legalization, and there are similar statistics for Australia and New Zealand. Vice has also reported that Mexico and Luxembourg[3] are very likely to go legal in the next couple of years.

So, with legalization becoming a real possibility in many places, now is an interesting time to imagine what a future with legal cannabis looks like. And that future needs to be one with plenty of regulation. Here's why:


Cannabis Use Has Real Risks

For the last 100 years, our governments and media have worked hard to exaggerate the risks of cannabis use. Luckily, new research is showing us that cannabis is not as harmful as we were made to believe. This research, however, is also showing that cannabis use isn’t completely safe, and the cannabis community needs to be aware of this and accept it.

Research shows, for example, that smoking cannabis carries similar risks to smoking tobacco, mainly because it involves combustion and inhaling toxic smoke.

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We also know that (brace yourself) cannabis can cause dependence. Sure, its potential for causing addiction is much lower than that of many other substances (including legal substances like tobacco). However, cannabis use can be problematic for some people. In 2015, for example, 4 million Americans met the diagnostic criteria for being addicted to cannabis, of which 138,000 sought out treatment to deal with their addiction.

Research has also shown that cannabis use may carry risks for young users. The endocannabinoid system has been shown to play a key role in brain development, both prenatally and during adolescence. Small studies comparing brain scans of habitual cannabis users and non-users have noted differences in brain structure and cognitive function.

Other research has explored the link between cannabis use and mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, psychosis, and schizophrenia. Is there a link there? Unfortunately, we don’t know yet. Research hasn’t shown that cannabis causes any of these conditions, but some research argues it may exacerbate their symptoms or increase the risk of developing them in those predisposed to doing so.

Now, if I haven't lost you yet, here’s something very important to remember; almost all of the research referred to above has its limitations. The hard reality is that we still don’t know a lot about cannabis and its effects. For now, it seems like cannabis is definitely not as dangerous as we were taught to believe, but it’s also not as safe as some advocates might make it out to be. And until we know for sure, it's important to regulate cannabis use and minimise any potential health risks associated with it.


Cannabis Cultivation Isn’t Always Clean

Cannabis is a hardy plant. It grows on six continents and needs little more than sunlight, water, and some good soil to grow. Unfortunately, what we might imagine a cannabis farm to look like is far from reality.

Over recent years, cannabis cultivation has moved almost strictly indoors. And with good reason; getting caught growing cannabis is a serious criminal offence in many countries. In order to maximise the potency and yield of their plants, indoor cannabis growers also started using a range of chemicals, including nutrient solutions, pesticides, and more.

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Unfortunately, many of the products used to push cannabis plants to their extreme are far from natural. Just read the label of your bloom-boosters or pesticides to see what I mean. The chemicals in these products, if not used properly, can still be present in the end product people consume. The runoff from these products is also highly toxic and can have devastating effects on the local environment.

The fact that cannabis is grown using these chemicals is a harsh reality, and it’s another reason that the production of cannabis needs to be highly regulated. The framework put in place to legalize and commercialise cannabis needs to hold growers accountable for how they use and dispose of these chemicals, and ensure that they do not affect the final product.


Today’s Cannabis Is Extremely Potent

“This ain’t your dad’s weed”. You’ve probably heard that phrase in the media lately, scrutinising the high potency of today’s cannabis. And it’s true; today’s cannabis has been so manipulated that bud can contain over 30% THC. The weed that your parents smoked[4], on the other hand, likely had less than 4% THC.

Now, why is that important for regulation? Well, while THC might be highly sought-after by many recreational users, it’s not everyone’s favorite cannabinoid. For many people, high-THC cannabis can be pretty unpleasant.

Again, that’s why we need regulation. This isn't to say high-THC strains should not be available, but regulation can help make a variety of concentrations more commonplace. Just like beer drinkers have the ability to choose a light beer over a heavy stout, cannabis users should be able to know the potency of the cannabis they are buying and choose a product accordingly.

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What Kind Of Regulations Does Cannabis Need?

So, you’re probably wondering what kind of regulation I’d like to see in legal cannabis markets. Basically, it involves 5 tiers:

  • Regulated sales. Cannabis shouldn’t be sold or marketed to adolescents, and consumers should be able to know what’s in the weed they are buying. And that goes far beyond simply labelling how much THC is in a specific product. It should include information like the concentration of other cannabinoids and terpenes, details on how the cannabis was grown, processed, and more.

  • Regulated production. From seed to dried bud or sticky concentrate, the production of cannabis and its derivatives should be regulated so users get a clean final product free of pesticides, traces of fertilisers, and other toxic chemicals.

  • Regulated home growing. People should have the right to grow their own cannabis, just like they can legally brew their own beer. However, the system for home cultivation needs to be regulated too. In Uruguay, for example, adults can grow up to six plants, but these laws are hardly enforced. Hence, black market cannabis is still widely available throughout Uruguay and around its border.

  • Tight border control. Countries that legalize cannabis should make it their responsibility to ensure that their legislative decisions don't impact other nations. Hence, countries/states need to tightly regulate their borders and avoid their cannabis fuelling black market sales elsewhere.

  • Regulated medical programmes. Cannabis has real medical potential, and its medical use should be held to the same standard as any other medicine.

Luckily, many of the places that have legalized cannabis have some of these regulations in place. However, many cannabis activists still cringe at the sound of the words “regulation” and “control”. Many argue that cannabis is “just a plant” and that trying to regulate it at all is ludicrous. But, as I’ve shown in this article, cannabis isn’t “just a plant”; its use can have risks, its production involves harsh chemicals, and the cannabis we consume today is far from "natural". Hence, we need regulation to ensure that everyone’s experience with cannabis is enjoyable and safe.

Steven Voser
Steven Voser
Steven Voser is an independent cannabis journalist with over 6 years of experience writing about all things weed; how to grow it, how best to enjoy it, and the booming industry and murky legal landscape surrounding it.
We are not making medical claims. This article has been written for informational purposes only, and is based on research published by other externals sources.

External Resources:
  1. Two-thirds of Americans support marijuana legalization | Pew Research Center -
  2. Majority of British public support legalisation of cannabis, survey reveals | The Independent | The Independent -
  3. These are the Countries Most Likely to Legalize Weed Next -
  4. Changes in Cannabis Potency over the Last Two Decades (1995-2014) - Analysis of Current Data in the United States -
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