This Research Topic is the second volume of the 'Community Series - Purple Haze: Issues on Cannabis Legalization'. Please see the first volume here
The recent cannabis legalization in Canada, certain states in the USA and some Latin American countries raises the need to determine, in a more objective manner, the pros and the cons of prohibition, decriminalization and legalization.
With the current trends at the international level towards legalization of recreational cannabis use, critical questions need to be addressed on more practical grounds:
- Should legalization adopt a liberal frame? a conservative one?
- Should the substance be offered by the private and/or the public sector?
- What is the optimal age of legal use?
- In what public places should the substance be banned?
- How should the price of cannabis be determined?
- What should be the maximal concentrations of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol?
- What should be the legal status of other forms of cannabis as well as synthetic cannabinoids?
- To what extent should manufacturers and distributors need to collect 'post-marketing’ data on the safety of their products?
While awaiting large-scale and objective data to fully answer these questions, there is also a need to think about the key outcomes that are the most relevant to measure the success or failure of legalization models. Such outcomes may include the prevalence of occasional and regular smoking, the prevalence of cannabis use disorder, the rates of emergency visits, the impacts on mental and physical health, and the impacts on vehicle accidents, among others.
One concern with cannabis legalization is that changes in policy may potentially increase these as well as other problems. In the case of vehicle accidents, the development of novel and sensitive methods of detection of acute intoxication of cannabis is critically needed. Implicitly, the reflection on the key outcomes should be informed by reliable evidence on the adverse effects of cannabis. While the effects of cannabis on psychosis, cognition and depression have been widely discussed, they remain debated, and less attention has been paid to bipolar disorder, suicide and PTSD, for example.
The trend towards cannabis legalization creates the proper context and opens opportunities for further investigations on risk reduction, on the prevention of cannabis-related harms and on actual treatment of cannabis use disorder. As such, cannabis legalization brings to the forefront of research the need to develop interventions with greater efficacy. Interventions may be universal (e.g. anti-smoking campaigns), tailored for population at risk of developing cannabis-related harms or tailored for those with a cannabis use disorder, including persons with complex comorbid psychiatric disorders. Conversely, the potential therapeutic effects of cannabinoids have been largely inferred from trials performed using orally administered compounds. Much less quality evidence is available on cannabis and related compounds more generally.
In this Research Topic, we welcome papers addressing the following current issues:
- the pros and cons of cannabis prohibition, decriminalization, and legalization
- the links between the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes
- practical issues regarding cannabis legalization models
- public health implications
- the complex link between cannabis use and mental health.
- Interventions aiming to delay the onset of cannabis smoking or to treat with greater efficacy cannabis use disorder, especially in complex populations.