Like it or not, marijuana is becoming mainstream. This sweeping phenomenon is evidenced by a rash of US states either loosening cannabis laws or removing them altogether like Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Colorado have done. But is America ready for marijuana to be fully (and federally) legalized?
According to recent polls, the answer is a resounding “yes.” A 2015 Harris Poll asked Americans if they were in favor of using cannabis for medical use with four in five adults (81%) in favor, up from 74% in 2011. Meanwhile, almost half (49%) of all Americans support recreational cannabis legalization, up from 42% four years ago.
Although the general American populace is in favor of legalization, are they truly prepared for the following consequences?
In the first six months of legalization in Colorado, homicides fell by over 60 percent and other violent crimes also saw a decrease. According to a University of Dallas Texas study led by Robert Morris, legalizing cannabis was found to actually decrease crime. The researchers analyzed crime rates of states with legalized medical marijuana from 1990 to 2006 and found that “After controlling for a host of known factors related to changes in crime rates (we accounted for factors such as poverty, employment, education, even per capita beer sales, among other things), we found no evidence of increases in any of these crimes for states after legalizing marijuana for medical use,” said Morris. “In fact, for some forms of violence (homicide and assault) we found partial support for declines after the passing of this legislation.”
After one year of legalized recreational cannabis, Washington gained $70 million in tax revenue. Meanwhile, the Colorado Department of Revenue reported that the state gained $88 million in revenue in 2015. In fact, Colorado generated so much revenue that it might even give some of it back to their citizens. Oregon’s first week of legalized recreational pot generated an estimated $11 million.
The legalization of weed puts a new meaning to “Made in the USA”; now, American consumers can buy locally-grown product instead of marijuana that was unscrupulously smuggled in from south of the border. As expected, Mexican drug cartels are reeling from weed legalization and will be hurt the most by it. By purchasing legal weed, you inadvertently stop the corruption, violence, and human-rights abuses that come with the cartels.
Cannabis is a legitimate medicine that has helped many people with health issues. In fact, recent studies have shown “…that cannabinoids may inhibit tumor growth by causing cell death, blocking cell growth, and blocking the development of blood vessels needed by tumors to grow. Laboratory and animal studies have shown that cannabinoids may be able to kill cancer cells while protecting normal cells,” according to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institute of Health. This essentially means that weed can cure cancer. Yes, cancer. But how can sick patients heal without access to the plant? Scientists who want to test marijuana often face tough legal battles; but if cannabis were federally legalized, those obstacles would be nonexistent. “Given the widespread use of medical marijuana, it is imperative that doctors better understand how it can be used to treat different people and conditions, as well as the risks involved,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) told the Huffington Post.
But are Americans currently ready to deal with the ramifications listed above?