Whether for recreational use, medical use, or both, marijuana is now legal in more than half of the United States. Seven states legalized marijuana on Election Day 2016 alone. Marijuana is now legal for recreational use in eight states. The question remains, though: are there any benefits to legalizing marijuana? The answer, of course, is yes.
Marijuana is an effective treatment for a wide variety of medical conditions. The most obvious use is as an aid for patients undergoing chemotherapy. Marijuana’s nausea-fighting abilities are well known, but it’s also useful for symptom management in a wide range of other health concerns, such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and Chron’s.
Legal weed is taxed, just like cigarettes and alcohol are. This additional revenue can provide a substantial cash infusion to governments. In Arizona, for example, it’s estimated that the K-12 system may receive an $86 million benefit over the next two years due to legalization.
In addition to government revenue, legal weed is a big benefit to a state’s economy. In Colorado, according to the Marijuana Policy Group, “legal marijuana activities generated $2.39 billion in state output and created 18,005 new” full-time positions in 2015 (http://www.mjpolicygroup.com/pubs/MPG%20Impact%20of%20Marijuana%20on%20Colorado-Final.pdf). And that’s just one state.
Quality and Safety Benefits
Legalization sets up quality controls for growing, distributing, and buying marijuana. With weed bought off the street or through connections, there’s no way of knowing how it was handled or if it was cut with something or contaminated. Legal weed is also grown to standards, so users know that they’re getting consistent strength and quality.
Reduced Government Costs
Crowded prisons are full of people who were jailed for the act of selling or using weed, while people who committed real crimes, including violent crimes, benefit from the distraction and lack of focus. Space will open up in the criminal justice system that will allow law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and courts to focus on truly dangerous individuals rather than Marijuana smokers.
As a side benefit, legal weed cuts off a stream of income to organized crime and the illegal drug trade that encourages thuggery activities. Some advocates believe that this may also reduce violence connected with the trade since the monetary incentive will at least decrease, even if it doesn’t disappear entirely. Legislation will reduce competition and prices will go down, hopefully with the effect of removing some of the support that cartels currently get. The black market is not eliminated, but it’s at least reduced.
Since weed was criminalized in the early 20th century, prohibition has been shown to be woefully ineffective. The number of users has never decreased. Studies have not shown that weed is harmful. Many legal substances, such as tobacco and alcohol, have been shown to cause far more harm to both society and individuals. The many positive benefits of legalizing marijuana far outweigh the few negatives.