By legalizing recreational marijuana in September 2021, New York is the latest state (so far!) in the succession of states that made recreational marijuana legal under state law. Still, under federal law, marijuana is an illegal drug and it has been since 1971 when the Controlled Substances Act was enforced by President Nixon.
However, even though weed stays federally illegal, things have been changing. Since 1996, when California legalized the possession and use of medical marijuana, one by one, state laws began to change. We’ve previously talked about why alcohol is legal and not weed, so now it’s time to talk about why weed should be legal under federal law.
Reasons Why the Use of Marijuana Should Be Legalized
Marijuana isn’t perfect, but its true characteristics are far from the attributes it’s been ascribed, and this is becoming more and more apparent as time goes by. Still, there is a need to reiterate why it should be legalized, so let’s begin!
Marijuana Is Already Legal In Some Form In More Than Half the States
The state laws around marijuana possession and use have been steadily changing for over a decade now. Many states have been lowering their penalties around cannabis, with decriminalization being the first step towards changing marijuana policies.
Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 37 states; 18 states plus Washington, D.C. have also legalized marijuana for adult (recreational) use, while in 7 states only CBD oil with low THC content is legal for medical use, and in two states cannabis is only decriminalized (though still illegal). Or to simplify things, marijuana is fully illegal in only four states: Idaho, Wyoming, Kansas, and South Carolina. Everywhere else, it’s either legal for adult or medical use (or both), or it’s been decriminalized. At this point, the next logical step for the federal law enforcement is to fully legalize cannabis in all states.
In States Where Weed Is Legal, the Marijuana Industry Is Thriving
California and Colorado have some of the biggest cannabis markets in the country, and they’re both states where weed is fully legal. Ever since its increasing legalization, the cannabis industry has been booming and it shows no signs of stopping. New cannabis products have been entering the market and both big and small canna-businesses have been popping up everywhere in legal states.
To paint a clearer picture, research shows that the sales of recreational marijuana are projected to reach $25.1 billion dollars by 2025, so as you can see, as far as the economy goes, legal states have been doing more than fine. Finally, all of this economic growth will create new full-time jobs in this sector, meaning thousands of unemployed citizens will have an opportunity to get a job.
The Legalization of Marijuana Could Exponentially Increase Tax Revenue
Colorado and Washington states were the first to legalize the recreational use of marijuana back in 2012, and it changed many things economically. Since marijuana became state-regulated and taxed, the tax revenue has increased exponentially. In fact, in 2021, Colorado collected over $423 million in tax revenue and surpassed its previous 2020 record of over $387 million. California shows a similar trend, with $333 million in tax revenue for 2021 which is 26% more than the previous year.
Why does tax revenue matter? It matters because it provides funding for essential public programs, like school and housing programs, mentoring for young people, mental health programs in jails, and many more. If the federal government legalizes weed, we can only imagine how much the cannabis industry would grow.
National Surveys On Marijuana Laws Show An Increasing Public Support
The support for changing the federal cannabis drug policy has grown a lot in the past two decades or so. A 2018 Gallup survey shows that 66% of Americans are in favor of legalizing weed, as opposed to the first marijuana legalization 1969 poll when only 12% expressed their support. Additionally, another Gallup survey conducted in 2019 showed that 89% of marijuana proponents favor legalization because of weed’s medical benefits.
Cannabis Use for Medical Purposes Has Been Proven As Beneficial
The reason why more states have legalized medical marijuana than recreational marijuana is because of its medical benefits which can’t be refuted. Humans have been using cannabis medically for millennia, so it’s only logical that we continue to use it today. Many states already have medical dispensaries and medical marijuana programs that help patients treat symptoms caused by a variety of conditions.
The combination of the cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis makes cannabis effective for treating inflammation, mood disorders, muscle spasms related to fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and ADHD, among others. CBD especially stands out for its antiepileptic and neuroprotective properties, while THC can improve nausea and appetite loss.
On That Note, Legalization Will Enable Further Research Into Medical Cannabis
One big drawback of the marijuana prohibition laws is that they hinder detailed research into its benefits and risks. Considering how long it’s been used in human history for a variety of purposes, it would be a shame to leave its medical potential underexplored in this day and age with all of the scientific advances.
While we do know now a lot more than in the past, cannabis is still a complex plant whose effects and interactions with the human body we don’t fully understand. For example, while it causes anxiety in some people, it helps with treating anxiety in others. Similarly, in some users, marijuana use is linked to an increased risk of inducing psychosis or schizophrenia.
Studying medical cannabis would certainly help us learn more about how to use it and how not to use it, so legalizing it under federal law would open the doors to many new discoveries.
Legal Marijuana Would Be Regulated for Potency, Quality, and Consumer Safety
Right now, there are a lot of marijuana products being sold on the black market and marijuana users are getting duped into buying laced weed or simply weed of really bad quality. The black market is also flooded with fake vape pens which contain toxic ingredients that cause serious respiratory issues. Sure, reggie weed will probably always be around, but that’s another story.
The point is that unregulated weed production is a potential threat to public health and regulating it is in everyone’s best interest. First and foremost, the customers will be protected from buying an unsafe product, and second, it will make access to weed for minors more difficult, since there is evidence suggesting that it could negatively affect their brain development. Finally, by regulating marijuana, there will be more opportunities for marijuana enthusiasts to enter the legal cannabis market.
Marijuana Isn’t a Gateway Drug
For decades now marijuana has been represented as a gateway drug to other, heavier substances, but this claim is simply not true. Some users may indeed start using other substances, but it won’t be because of marijuana.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, “harder” substances. Also, cross-sensitization is not unique to marijuana. Alcohol and nicotine also prime the brain for a heightened response to other drugs.”
Marijuana Causes Less Harm Than Tobacco and Alcohol
Tobacco and alcohol have been legal for ages and have been studied in depth. We know that they can cause some serious health issues, like chronic respiratory diseases, liver damage, heart failure, and many others, but the same can’t be said about weed. Alcohol is known to cause fatalities from overdosing, but so far, no fatalities have been recorded from a marijuana overdose.
Final Thoughts on Marijuana Legalization
The road to marijuana legalization doesn’t seem as long as it used to, but there is still some work to be done. Weed is already the most consumed illegal drug in the states, so regulating it on a federal level would do everyone a favor for more reasons than one.
One of the biggest advantages of legalizing marijuana is the unhampered research into its effects. By legalizing it, we can make bigger science advances better understand its properties. Additionally, the marijuana industry could thrive even more by increasing tax revenues and creating thousands of new jobs. But these are only some of the advantages, so it remains to see what’s next.
NIDA. 2021, May 24. Is marijuana a gateway drug?. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-gateway-drug on 2022, January 14