The effects of cannabis legalization are far reaching, as has been seen in states and nations that have done so.
Recreational marijuana is now legal in 8 states. Medical marijuana is legal in another 20 states.
Judicial and Correctional
Of the 1,488,707 drug law violations in 2015, 643,121 were in relation to marijuana. 89% of these, or 574,641, were for possession only1.
Legalization with the release of those currently in the correctional facilities would greatly unburden those correctional facilities. Refocusing the efforts of law enforcement away from those in possession to those who unlawfully sell marijuana, while also providing lawful access to those who wish to consume it would greatly disrupt the black market drug trade.
Studies on the health benefits of cannabis are incomplete, but the early results are very promising. As a substitute to opiates alone, marijuana provides an opportunity for pain treatment with far less harsh side effects and little to no addiction risk5.
Studies have shown that legalization of medical marijuana have not resulted in increases in various types of crimes. On the contrary, homicide, rape, and assault rates dropped after the legalization of medical marijuana3. Robbery and burglary rates were unaffected, which is to say that there was no increase in crime rates as a result of the legalization of marijuana3.
States spend $3.6 billion per year enforcing marijuana laws2. The federal government spends another $7.7 billion per year enforcing marijuana laws4. This is money that could be used instead for the care and rehabilitation of those suffering from addiction.
Every year, 800,000 people are arrested for possession and use of marijuana and enter into a cycle of corrections and loss of economic and social potential4.
Legalizing marijuana would greatly increase the economic potential of the nation by ending the prosecution of it’s use, decrease the strain on and expenses of the nations correctional facilities, and generate taxable revenues of more than $6 billion if taxed similarly to alcohol and tobacco4.
Marijuana legalization has led to new jobs numbering between 100,000 and 150,000. Full nationwide legalization could lead to hundreds of thousands more.
Once marijuana is no longer stigmatized, the legalization of it’s close cousin hemp may continue. Hemp has countless applications that could stimulate the economy and it’s production capabilities.
The United States could reallocate, or eliminate, $10 billion in expenses from state and federal budgets. However, this money should be used in efforts to help reestablish those in correctional facilities in their rehabilitation and reintroduction to society. The reintroduction of potentially millions of workers would drastically increase the production capabilities of the United States.
The $6 billion in potential revenues from the taxation of marijuana sales could be used to improve local education, drug treatment programs, small business grants, and infrastructure.
Tax revenues from hundreds of thousands more jobs notwithstanding, the availability of new jobs in a growing industry could do the United States a lot of good. Health benefits from the access to medical-grade cannabis in it’s various forms are also a boon. The shock to the black market drug trade makes a fine cherry to top it all off.
1 Drug Policy. Drug War Statistics.
2 American Civil Liberties Union. Marijuana Arrests by the Numbers.
3 Morris, TenEyck, Barnes, Kovandzic. 2014. The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Crime: Evidence from State Panel Data, 1990-2006.
4 Edwards, McCray. 2012. Hundreds of Economists: Marijuana Prohibition Costs Billions, Legalization Would Earn Billions.
5 Welsh, Loria. 2014. 23 Health Benefits of Marijuana.