The number of drug "addicts" are about 5% of users. So most users are not even addicts.

This one says 10% of users become addicts. I am sure it means 10% of illegal drug users.

First, medical science tells us that while the use of psychoactive substances always has the potential for harm, in practice most users will never experience any serious negative consequence from their drug use and may actually stop using at their own volition at some point in time. UNODC estimate that only about 10% of all drug users will ever develop a problematic pattern of drug use or become dependent on drugs.[12] Of course, this doesn’t mean that drug use cannot be harmful, and indeed in many cases it is. But it does tell us that treatment is actually not necessary for the great majority of drug users. It should, therefore, be offered only to people who really need it, that is, those engaging in problematic drug use, who have become dependent on drugs. https://www.tni.org/en/article/will-myanmar-lead-drug-policy-reform-in-southeast-asia

This suggest that most criminalize drugs are not even addictive or have any significant downside in long terms.

Many states have legalized ganja.

California, Colorado, Washington. Even Malaysia and Thailand went along.

However, many drugs are safe too or at least many people think it is.

A quick search at google shows this graph

So why did ganja get legalized first?

MDMA and LSD also do not kill anyone, nor do DMT, kratom and many other drugs. Most meth users are not even addicts. Some organizations wish to legalize these as well.

Out of so many harmless drugs, why was cannabis the one that got legalized first?

I am aware that some organizations want to legalize other drugs too. Why the one wanting to legalize cannabis is successful?

What should other organizations that want to legalize other drugs do so they are successful too?

I asked in History.SE and they said I should ask in Politics.SE...

  • why the downvotes?
    – user4951
    Dec 28, 2018 at 5:42
  • 6
    The question makes some strong claims but offers nothing to back them up. The one source you do include doesn't actually say what you claim it does (5% of people, not 5% of users). These are very good reasons to downvote the question.
    – yannis
    Dec 28, 2018 at 9:04
  • 1
    @yannis, The Cosmopolitican URL does seem inadequate, referencing the 5% quote from a "Dominic" (no last name) who works with the Amy Winehouse Foundation . But an inference that it refers to "5% of people, not 5% of users" is not supported by the text, which says: "If you consider that in terms of people in a nightclub: 5 in every 100 will likely fall into being an addict, which seems relatively high." Nightclubs are no more representative of the general populace than Mormon picnics.
    – agc
    Dec 28, 2018 at 12:39

4 Answers 4


Perhaps because (at least in the US) marijuana has a much greater number of users than other drugs, and a still larger base of people who regard it as basically harmless even if they don't care to use it themselves. That has led to increased popular support, which over time has become strong enough in some states to get legalization initiatives on the ballot, and eventually to pass them.

Your use of the word "ganja" suggests that you might not be American, and so not familiar with the initiative process. Basically, this is a way in which groups can, by collecting signatures from a certain number of voters, get a measure placed on an election ballot without going through the legislature. About half of the 50 US states have such a process. and if memory serves, of the 10 US states that have legalized recreational marijuana, only Vermont has done so via the state legislature. The rest have been via ballot initiatives.

While I don't know more about the legalization process in other countries, I suspect it has much to do with a younger generation of voters and legislators. Those who were indoctrinated with the "Reefer Madness" propaganda have mostly retired or died. The current generation grew up in an environment where marijuana use was commonplace, and pretty much accepted by their contemporaries, if not by law enforcement. They have seen that use causes far less harm than prohibition, and act accordingly.

  • "Reefer Madness" was shown to me in school... but only so that we could all make fun of its absurdity. In this way, I suppose that many Americans became convinced that marijuana is safe, certainly safer than tobacco. Dec 28, 2018 at 14:48

First you must understand why it was made illegal in the first place.

Previous questions along related topics can help. This and this both speak to some of the political reasoning behind making it illegal in the first place. Further support show potentially racist motivations. Further reading here can help.

This establishes that cannabis was made illegal for social reasons, not because of the danger, usefulness, or issues with the drug itself.

The federal government is being hypocritical here.

Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

The general consensus and a lot of history strongly suggest that cannabis does have medical potential.

People are not stupid. When they spot hypocrisy they don't like it. The reasons for the older generations to give to keep it illegal don't connect with the younger generations. The younger generations are seeing a different side of the cannabis story so they want it changed.

To answer why cannabis is first? Strategy.

It was the most inappropriately treated drug that has the most perceived value. The plant in general, not just the drug, has immense value that was inaccessible due to the drug being illegal.

Cannabis was targeted for its potential medical, recreational, and industrial applications. Basically, there were the most reasons to legalize it over other drugs.

  • I see. So the rest will follow? Any organization that we can call to try?
    – user4951
    Dec 30, 2018 at 7:20

The demographics of the United States are changing, and the Boomers are now our elderly. The elderly, not coincidentally, are the age bracket that is most likely to vote in elections.

But first, some backstory. We have known for decades if not hundreds of years that cannabis sativa/indica was useful (hemp) and unlikely to cause crime (consumed), but the Boomers' parents, the Greatest Generation, were fed a lot of untrue propaganda about 'reefer madness' such that we had to wait until they died to have any chance at legalizing.

Now back to why elderly Boomers are important: pain management and the opioid crisis. Old people hurt. It's a thing. But we now know that using opium-based medicines is a recipe for addiction in many cases, and reduced effectiveness over time for all cases. It's not a coincidence that the first legal cannabis in the USA was medical marijuana. It's just a result of the most-reliable voting bloc voting in their own self-interest, as they tend to do.


Our laws are supposed to mirror the standards of our society. They are supposed to codify what kind of behavior is acceptable in our society and what behavior is not. I am not claiming they are always doing a good job, but that's what they are supposed to be.

When there is a consensus among a society that a certain substance should not be abused, it's the job of the politicians to suppress it. When society consensus says that there is nothing wrong about a substance, politicians are supposed to legalize it.

The view of our society on different drugs does not necessarily correlate with their relative danger. Consider alcohol, for example, which is a drug with a very high addiction potential and with very destructive short-term and long-term effects, yet it is ingrained in our culture. So it is legal in most jurisdictions. How exactly the consensus-forming process works in detail is a question about sociology, not politics. Politics is just concerned with reacting to it.

Cannabis used to be one of the fringe-drugs which were suppressed, but now that more and more people consume it, it starts to become one of the "socially accepted" drugs too. You can see that mirrored in legislation: More and more countries start to legalize it.

  • I don't think the consensus idea holds up to examination. The classic example is Prohibition. Pushed through Congress and state legislatures by a vocal pressure group, the majority of the population not only ignored it, they apparently began to drink more.
    – jamesqf
    Dec 28, 2018 at 18:13
  • Does prohibition happen due to referendum or legislaturs?
    – user4951
    Dec 30, 2018 at 7:22
  • @user4951: It was a Constitutional Amendment, passed by the Congress and then ratified by the legislatures of the necessary number of states, See e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prohibition_in_the_United_States for more.
    – jamesqf
    Dec 30, 2018 at 18:50

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