In the United States, Marijuana is considered one of the most regularly used and abused drugs. While its use and distribution have been illegal since 1937, states have experimented with marijuana liberalization legislation over the years. States began experimenting with decriminalization laws in the 1970s, medical use legislation in the 1990s, and recreational market legalization in the last few years (Cerdá et al., 2012). As a result, the United States today has a range of marijuana liberalization policies that are not often fully recognized or represented when assessing recent policy changes.
As of 2016, approximately 21 states had decriminalized possession of marijuana offenses, 26 states had legalized the medical use of marijuana, and 16 states had approved CBD-only legislation, which protects certain strains of marijuana use (Wu et al., 2020). However, some states enacted a combination of each of the aforementioned policies. Examples of these states include Washington, Colorado, and California. These states originally decriminalized marijuana and then enacted medical marijuana regulations prior to enacting their marijuana recreational legalization policies. Some proposals that led to the legalization of marijuana in these states include; marijuana could boost the economy by billions of dollars generate hundreds of thousands of jobs, free up precious police resources, and put an end to the massive racial inequities in marijuana enforcement. Additionally, it was proposed that legalizing marijuana would reduce street violence, divert revenue away from drug cartels, and make marijuana usage safer via mandatory testing, labeling, and child-resistant packaging.
Maier et al. (2017) use data from various states, Washington, Colorado, and California included, to establish the outcomes of legalizing marijuana. The authors found that legalization of marijuana boosts the economy. The legal marijuana market produced $7.2 billion in economic activity in 2016, and cannabis firms contributed millions of dollars in federal taxes. According to a research conducted by the University of California Agricultural Issues Center, California’s legal marijuana industry might produce $5 billion yearly. Marijuana also generates three times the tax income in Colorado as alcohol. After launching retail sales, the state generated $78 million in the first fiscal year and $129 million in the second fiscal year. Washington earned a total of $220 million in tax revenue during the state’s second fiscal year.
Cerdá et al.( 2012) assert that legalizing marijuana will reduce its use among teens. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine discovered that since the legalization of marijuana in Washington the rates of marijuana usage by young people are declining. According to the statistics, marijuana usage among eighth-graders in Washington state declined from 9.8 percent in 2012 to 7 percent in 2016. According to the National Survey on Drug Usage and Health, Colorado youth aged 12 to 17 reported a nearly 13% decrease in marijuana use only two years after adult use was allowed.
Legalization of marijuana could also erode criminal markets and deprive drug cartels, organized crime, and street gangs of revenue which will reduce street violence. Wu et al.( 2020) claim that Seizures of marijuana have plummeted by millions of pounds and are at their lowest level in almost a decade, showing that legal domestic production is reducing demand for marijuana trafficked into the United States from Mexico. Legalization in Colorado and Washington has resulted in a loss of $2.7 billion in income for Mexican drug gangs. Currently, over 90% of Colorado’s marijuana market is supplied by licensed and taxed sellers, indicating that the black market has been replaced by legal, controlled sales.
From the above discussion, it can be concluded that, although legalizing marijuana is beneficial, especially for recreational is beneficial ever though it has been associates with a few adverse effects. It is clear that legalizing marijuana has served its goal of reducing crimes, boosting the economy and reducing its abuse. Hence, it can be concluded that the marijuana legalization proposals, especially for recreational, are effective.
Cerdá, M., Wall, M., Keyes, K. M., Galea, S., & Hasin, D. (2012). Medical marijuana laws in 50 states: investigating the relationship between state legalization of medical marijuana and marijuana use, abuse, and dependence. Drug and alcohol dependence, 120(1-3), 22-27.
Maier, S. L., Mannes, S., & Koppenhofer, E. L. (2017). The implications of marijuana decriminalization and legalization on crime in the United States. Contemporary Drug Problems, 44(2), 125-146.
Wu, G., Boateng, F. D., & Lang, X. (2020). The spillover effect of recreational marijuana legalization on crime: evidence from neighboring states of Colorado and Washington State. Journal of Drug Issues, 50(4), 392-409.