Smoking cannabis is getting more acceptable around the world. In 2003 Canada became the first country to allow medical marijuana; 19 US states allow medical use. Chile, Guatemala, Columbia and Ecuador have decriminalised personal use. Uruguay has legalised it.
The Netherlands has always tolerated it. In America, Washington state and Colorado passed laws in November 2012 legalising the consumption and sale to adults over the age of 18. Both states set up regulatory systems to license and tax marijuana growers and retailers.
There was only one problem though. Lawmakers weren’t sure if the federal government would continue to prosecute cannabis crimes under federal statutes.
Last month, all doubts were laid to rest when America’s Department of Justice announced that the federal government would not prosecute marijuana crimes in those states.
This is not all. Legalisation bills have been introduced in Maine and Rhode Island; Massachusetts and Vermont are in the process of discussing possible bills and there is talk of ‘ballot initiatives’ in California and Oregon.
In April thousands smoked pot openly at a pro-marijuana concert-rally at Civic Centre Park in Denver.
In Colorado, marijuana retail stores are expected to open as early as January 2014. People above the age of 21 can buy an ounce while non-residents will be able to purchase up to one quarter of an ounce.
These are welcome winds of change. For far too long governments have wasted precious resources on criminalizing and fighting a soft drug that is used by millions – 162 million adults use marijuana once a year; 22.5 million use it everyday.
In Sri Lanka, according to one estimate, one out of three people smoke the aromatic weed. It’s taken time but realisation has finally seeped through that cannabis use is far less harmful than alcohol or tobacco consumption.