The United States has some catching up to do when it comes to cannabis legalization. As of July 2020, only 11 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational cannabis. An additional 22 states allow some form of medicinal cannabis usage, but at the federal level, cannabis is still a Schedule I drug – preventing the nation from reaping the economic benefits of legalizing weed.
Allowing for medicinal usage isn’t enough: fully legalizing cannabis could cause huge improvements to the health and prosperity of Americans, including those who don’t use cannabis products. Here’s how fully legalizing marijuana can change the nation for good.
Americans spend billions of dollars on cannabis every year, but because recreational usage is illegal in most states, both local and federal governments can’t benefit from cannabis sales. Legalizing cannabis would stimulate the American economy through the following avenues:
Cannabis sales would directly fund public services. In Colorado, for example, taxes on all sales of legal cannabis fund the state’s education system. Since 2014, marijuana taxes have put more than $1.2b towards public schools in Colorado. Local governments could use cannabis taxes to fund other initiatives, from public goods to community revitalization.
Marijuana businesses create jobs – and lots of them. Nearly 250,000 U.S. employees work in cannabis growth, sales, and manufacturing, and many of those workers enjoy living wages. Currently, United States labor economists don’t count cannabis jobs toward data for unemployment, average wages, or GDP growth; including cannabis in job reports would give a more accurate window to the nation’s economy.
Legalizing cannabis would result in a cascade of new marijuana businesses, many of which could provide long-term investment opportunities. Start-up entrepreneurs and stock market investors will likely watch for new IPOs in cannabis growth and research, further stimulating jobs and revenue in the industry.
Police precincts across the nation spend billions of dollars annually to punish people who use or possess cannabis. Not only are important resources diverted towards prosecuting cannabis users, but it’s extremely expensive to house someone in prison, and many cannabis offenders can find themselves locked up from 6 months to 10 years. By legalizing cannabis, this money can be reinvested into local communities in more productive ways.
Legalizing cannabis can profoundly benefit both the nation’s economy and the wellbeing of its residents. Ostensibly, national legalization would expand the pool of individuals who can consume medicinal cannabis. On top of increasing Americans’ access to the health benefits of cannabis, legalization would improve the country through the following:
If cannabis were legalized, there would be much more funding for medical research on the plant. We know that cannabinoids, in certain ratios, can seriously improve a user’s health, comfort, and wellbeing. Future research would let us understand the chemical mechanisms of the endocannabinoid system, and it would help producers finetune their products.
With better testing comes better products. Growers and manufacturers can improve their methods and products, allowing for cheaper production techniques and higher quality cannabis. Additionally, legalizing cannabis would allow people to purchase cannabis products from trusted retailers, rather than from local dealers – who may deal products that are laced, or of otherwise poor quality.
Lastly, legalizing cannabis would greatly benefit public health, especially the health of drug addicts. Cannabis offers a potential avenue for weaning off of an opioid addiction, mitigating the withdrawal symptoms from opioids. With cannabis also used to treat individuals with cancer, epilepsy, and mental illness, public health would greatly benefit from legalizing marijuana.
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Legalizing cannabis would have profound benefits for the United States as a whole. U.S. citizens would be able to access the health benefits of cannabis nationwide, and these benefits would only improve with time as researchers better understand and manufacture the plant. Additionally, cannabis is a multi-billion dollar industry that could provide millions of jobs and thousands of investment opportunities.
Clearly, there are significant social and economic benefits in legalizing weed. As the nation grows more accepting of cannabis usage, we should push both local and national leaders to consider cannabis legalization.