By The Economist. IT IS like a hash-induced hallucination: row upon row of lush, budding plants, tended by white-coated technicians who are bothered by the authorities only when it is time to pay their taxes. Cannabis once grew in secret, traded by murderous cartels and smoked by consumers who risked jail. Now, countries all over the world have licensed the drug for medical purposes, and a few are going still further (see article). Four American states have so far legalised its recreational use; little Uruguay will soon be joined by big, G7-member Canada in the legal-weed club. Parliaments from Mexico to South Africa are debating reforms of their own.

Those (including this newspaper) who have argued that legalisation is better than prohibition will welcome the beginning of the end of the futile war on weed. Cannabis accounts for nearly half the $300 billion illegal narcotics market, and is the drug of choice for most of the world’s 250m illicit-drug users. Legalising it deprives organised crime of its single biggest source of income, while protecting and making honest citizens of consumers.

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