Guardian Article: UK cannabis campaigners take note: in the US, change came from below

The only UK mainstream media outlet that actually pays attention to the world of cannabis..

Sadiq Khan’s decriminalisation commission could put pressure on the government to change its policy

Take a stroll down Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the high street for hipsters in Venice Beach, California, and alongside the brightly painted boutiques offering vintage T-shirts or oat-spiced lattes, you’ll find a sleek, bright red storefront with plate-glass windows that, at first glance, is easy to mistake for a car showroom.

Instead of cars, though, it sells high-end cannabis products: Huckleberry Gummies, Keef root beer, concentrates, creams and lotions, rolled joints and vaporisers, all laid out on carefully curated wooden tables. This is MedMen, part of a national chain of quality pot shops that constitute the normal now that cannabis is authorised for recreational and medical use in California and 16 other states.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, may have pledged to set up an independent commission to study decriminalisation, but to anyone familiar with the largely stalled debate over cannabis in Britain, the proliferation of legal pot shops along well-trafficked thoroughfares is an exotic and improbable sight. California is far from a perfect model to follow, not least because of its ferociously complex patchwork of regulations and requirements that vary from city to city, and other states have struggled with their own problems in setting up the infrastructure of a newly legal industry. Having set off down the road toward full legalisation almost 30 years ago, though, America does have some salient lessons to offer.

First, contrary to the fears of drug alarmists, the ready availability of cannabis products has not been shown to have any significant effect on crime, addiction or traffic accident statistics. Rather, if established and regulated properly, the legal market brings a previously clandestine activity into the open and makes it safer and more accountable.

Second, there’s no virtue in half-measures. Like Britain, many US states started off attempting to restrict legalisation to medical use. But it was only after Colorado and Washington became the first states to open to legal recreational use in 2012 that any meaningful market emerged to challenge the old criminal networks.

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