Experts from the legal cannabis industry in the United States have advised politicians in the UK on best practices for the industry if the country does decide to legalize the plant for recreational use. One of the most shocking suggestions to come from the US panel was that former dealers from the illegal market should be given jobs in the newly legal cannabis industry. The suggestion came from Shaleen Title, the commissioner of the cannabis control board in the state of Massachusetts, where cannabis has been legal since 2016.
Title has overseen similar policies in Massachusetts, where the industry has been structured in a way that is accessible to people from poorer communities, especially those with experience in the previously underground markets. In September of last year, she spoke to the House of Lords in the UK about how the government in her state handled legalization.
In her presentation, Title said that people from the community have been sought out to help grow the industry in the state.
“We are on our first project with 150 people and we put out a bid to vendors who can teach them how to produce cannabis that is regulated. It also includes an ownership program to train people who were once entrepreneurs in the underground market. They have skills already, of course, gleaned over a long number of years. It is a way to give people and the voters that backed legalization in our referendum what they wanted. They did not want to hand the industry over to a few giant corporations that are going to exploit it,” Title said.
“If for years under drug prohibition you have this security focus on these communities then after legalisation you can hardly say to them, ‘oh never mind now, big corporations will take this business off you, they will take it from here.’ How is that fair?” she added.
Some UK officials have had similar ideas about making the transition to a peaceful end for the drug war. Michael Semple, the former deputy to the European Union special representative for Afghanistan, said that the government should have peace talks with those in the drug industry to make a peaceful transition into a legal market.
“Given the sheer number of people involved in drug dealing, and, internationally, the scale of violence associated with the ‘war on drugs’, it should not be difficult for drug policymakers to envisage a peace process with drug gangs,” Semple said.
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