Here’s the good news.
The majority of the American people now support the marijuana use. This may sound so impossible a few decades ago. But the widespread testimonies of those who benefited from the controversial herb have become undeniable.
In this article, we go into the details of where America stands on the issue of legalizing recreational cannabis. Then we go further. We explore the most valid reasons why it is time to legalize pot.
How America views marijuana legalization
At this point, the benefits of using marijuana are just so well-established that roughly more than half of the population supports marijuana legalization. In a 2014 survey, about 54% surveyed across the United States agree that this herb should be legalized. Data gathered in 2013 also show similar results, at 52%.
Assuming that the federal government still maintains its stand against marijuana use, what then does the population suggest as punishment? Again, the survey shows whopping three-quarters (76%) of Americans believe those convicted of possessing marijuana in small amounts do not deserve to be in jail. Perhaps minor penalties like a fine would suffice for first-time offenders.
It is also interesting to know that there are significant partisan differences in terms of marijuana legalization support. Roughly two-thirds of Democrats is in favor, while a little more than one-third of Republicans oppose. The difference, however, diminishes when all parties are asked whether those convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana should be in jail. The majority of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents believe such minor offenses should not warrant jail time.
When it comes to age groups, more Americans age 65, and above maintain their stance against legalizing marijuana use, while the younger ones think otherwise.
When asked which could pose a greater danger to health, the majority of Americans agree that alcohol is more harmful than cannabis. The same sentiment holds true on whether alcohol poses a greater danger to the society. Even among those who oppose the legalization of marijuana, more than half still agree that marijuana is safer than alcohol.
Other questions have also been considered assuming that recreational marijuana was legal in the United States. More than half of the respondents believe that the legalization of recreational marijuana would lead to the more prevalent use of the herb among underage individuals. Such view becomes even more profound among individuals age 65 and above. So, obviously, those who oppose recreational marijuana use and those who support the use of it for medical purpose only share the same outlook.
The survey also revealed that using marijuana in public is largely perceived as a negative. A little more than 80% approved of its use in individuals’ respective homes, and 63% do not approve of its use in public.
So, what does the data tell us?
It is clear that majority of the Americans are ready to embrace recreational marijuana. So much so that if a nationwide referendum is done today, the controversies surrounding this herb would have been a thing of the past. But we remain hopeful that the day comes when recreational marijuana becomes accessible for all. It’s been proven safe and even effective in the treatment of some medical conditions.
Where America stands now
At present, there are 23 states (and DC) where the use of medical cannabis is legal. These are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. So far, there only four states where recreational marijuana is legal. These are Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.
Listed below are the details of when medical cannabis was legalized in each state, and the maximum allowable amount for possessing it at any given time.
|1oz usable; 6 plants (3 mature, 3 immature)|
|2.5oz usable; 0-12 plants|
|8oz usable; 6 mature or 12 immature plants|
|2oz usable; 6 plants (3 mature, 3 immature)|
|2oz dried; limits on other forms to be determined|
|4oz usable; 7 plants|
|2.5 ounces of usable cannabis during a period of 14 days|
|2.5oz usable; 6 plants|
|30-day supply, amount to be determined|
|60-day supply for personal medical use|
|2.5 oz usable; 12 plants|
|30-day supply of non-smokable marijuana|
|1 oz usable; 4 plants (mature); 12 seedlings|
|1 oz usable; 7 plants (3 mature, 4 immature)|
|Two ounces of usable cannabis during a 10-day period|
|2 oz usable|
|6 oz usable; 16 plants (4 mature, 12 immature)|
|30-day supply non-smokable marijuana|
|24 oz usable; 24 plants (6 mature, 18 immature)|
|2.5 oz usable; 12 plants|
|2 oz usable; 9 plants (2 mature, 7 immature)|
|24 oz usable; 15 plants|
The Most Hopeful Turn of Events
In February 2015, the nation’s capital, District of Columbia, gave everyone a big jolt of optimism as recreational marijuana was decriminalized through a voter-approved initiative. The Initiative 71 now makes it legal for anyone 21 years of age or older to carry a maximum amount of two ounces of marijuana for personal use and to grow up to six cannabis plants inside the individual’s residence. Limitations were still put in place. Selling marijuana remains illegal, but the transfer of ownership of an ounce not involving money is allowed.
One of the main reasons behind the push for a referendum in the District is the increasing costs of incarceration. And by legalizing small possession of marijuana instead of sending the small offenders to jail, the District can save thousands, or perhaps millions in the long run.
One setback is that Congress has the power to review and have the final say on all of the District laws — this referendum result included. But the city is confident that it has solid legal reasons to enforce the new legislation.
So, how does this recent development affect the nation’s stand on marijuana legalization?
Here’s one promising view. The fact that you can now possess and use marijuana (albeit in small amounts) in the backyard of the White House means that we are inching comfortably closer to legalizing the use of this harmless herb at the federal level. Even in the capital, the strong approval of marijuana among residents makes it clear that marijuana use poses no danger.
SETBACKS: Why Ohio failed (and why other states must not follow Ohio’s example)
In our quest to legalize recreational marijuana, we don’t always expect sunshiny days ahead. Case in point? On November 3, 2015, majority of Ohio’s voters opted against the legalization of recreational cannabis. Known as Issue 3, the failed proposal constitutional amendment seemed like an utter defeat at first glance. Here are some insights we gathered:
Ohio’s case was unique. The state’s proposal provides exclusive rights to only 10 Marijuana Growth, Cultivation, and Extraction (MGCE) facilities. This potentially creates a monopoly that does not offer more opportunities for other would-be players in the marijuana industry. Eventually, this did not look right to many of the 1.1 million Ohio voters who turned down the proposal. Despite the MGCE backers spending millions of dollars to support the referendum, the negative outcome was a big blow to efforts to legalize recreational marijuana.
Yet as you analyze the situation, the majority of the people of Ohio did not support the resolution not because they did not believe in the benefits of marijuana. They voted “no” because the system that regulates the entire process is deeply flawed. Imagine a monopolistic market where the growers and dispensers can manipulate the price at their own will. But how does this compare with the other four states that have successfully passed their own respective referendums?
Here’s the case of Colorado. While this state’s provisions are similar to Ohio’s in many ways, there is no limit as to how many producers are allowed. This holds true as long as no regulations issued by the department of revenue are adhered to. Citizens can even grow marijuana without the need to apply for a license.
Even Alaska and Oregon do not limit the number of producers. Both states allow cannabis home cultivation too.
What about Washington’s strict regulations?
Similar to Colorado’s failed provisions, Washington’s statutes do not allow home cultivation of Marijuana. However, the number of growers is not stipulated in the provisions (Colorado would have allowed only ten producers or production facilities). The final number of marijuana licenses granted would depend on the number of producers who successfully applied within the thirty-day period following the statute’s effective date. The result? Washington granted more than 600 licenses. This number is enough to keep the competition going. In the end, the active market has brought the price of cannabis down across the state.
With these comparisons, it is safe to say that Ohio’s initiative has been seen by much as too limited to create a healthy market of produces. But all hope is not lost. The state may once again propose another measure that could include better and more flexible provisions. Lessons have been learned. And states the following suit should at least veer away from Ohio’s mistakes.
Here’s what some of the major players in the industry have to say:
“From a business perspective, the measures had its drawbacks. The market would have been limited a small group of pre-determined growers, and left little room for competition. Although there was clear overall support for legalization, voters were not ready for this approach. Even with this less than ideal approach, we can all agree that prohibition has not and will not work.”
Derek Peterson, CEO of Terra Tech (TRTC)
“Ohio voters decided to wait for a more traditional legalization measure to come up for a vote. Ohio voters very clearly support taxing and regulating the cannabis industry, but the details of the initiative caused hang ups that need resolution. Even after tonight’s vote, it is clear that the public finds comfort in legalizing cannabis with the right underlying framework.”
Leslie Bocskor, Managing Partner of Electrum Partners
“The disapproval of Issue 3 in Ohio is a not a defeat. Although conservative forces have prevailed, they are not the most logical in this case. Regardless of today’s loss, a monumental step forward for our country has occurred – just by having this issue at the forefront. The citizens of Ohio are not yet ready to fully legalize Cannabis, perhaps this particular issue and its nuances (and legal language) have been a hindrance. Nevertheless, a strong and motivated portion of the population did vote in favor today, and we will likely see this issue revisited very soon, but hopefully with a more acceptable framework.”
Eddie Miller, Chief Strategy Officer of GreenRush
“While there was some debate about the merits of the system put before Ohio voters, polls show they clearly did and do support regulating the cannabis industry. Voters rejected the notion of legislating a monopoly, not cannabis legalization. They realize that legalization is so much more than the right to buy, sell or use cannabis. This is about taking steps to dismantle policies that tear families and communities apart, and making more sensible decisions about how we use our tax dollars and law enforcement resources.”
Kyle Sherman, CEO of Flowhub
“Ohio voters rejected the idea of a legislated monopoly, not regulating Cannabis. The trend continues to go in the direction of legalization, and we can all agree the industry should be fair and responsible.”
Dawn Roberts, Marketing Director for O.penVAPE
“Failing to pass Issue 3 for legalization in Ohio was still a decisive step forward for cannabis proponents and shows a changing tide in traditionally conservative areas. With each successive legislative measure, we can learn and adapt to ensure that the most sustainable and socially beneficial policies are implemented. This public vote in Ohio offers another opportunity to improve while concurrently educating the public about critical issues.”
Mike Bologna, Co-Founder of Green Lion Partners
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: Up to seven more states for marijuana legalization
The failure of Ohio to legalize recreational marijuana doesn’t necessarily mean other states should not try to follow similar steps. But this time, lessons have been learned. Even before Ohio’s November 3 votes, the five states below are already poised to write their own history.
One of the most progressive New England states Massachusetts is prepping up for the 2016 ballots. And many are confident the initiative here will pass given the previous records of liberal healthcare reforms and legalization of same-sex marriage.
In the summer of 2015, Massachusetts opened its first medical marijuana dispensary. And we see this as an essential step toward our goal of making even recreational marijuana legal here. As of today, the referendum is just waiting in the ballots. It is only a matter of time when we see our hopes for this state become a reality.
When it comes to supporting the use of marijuana, California us no stranger to such issues. In fact, it was the very first state to make the use of medical marijuana legal in 1996. In other words, the majority of the people of California have long been accustomed to the benefits of cannabis. This means any measure rolled out could easily pass in the ballots.
California is perhaps the most watched state when it comes to legalizing recreational cannabis. Not only is the state one of the largest economies in the U.S., but it also has many representatives in Congress. If California and Oregon both legalize marijuana, then the entire west coast could become the center of pot trade in the country. The 2016 ballots in the state will indeed significantly define the future of marijuana in the country.
Eddie Miller, Chief Strategy Officer at GreenRush, a CA patient-centered cannabis delivery platform, presented in finer detail his take on the matter:
“Legalization is positive for the United States for five very easily comprehensible reasons.
1. Social Justice
There are 1,000’s of people currently incarcerated for low-level Marijuana crimes in our prison system. This neither rehabilitates them nor does is actually change the outcome. In fact, the continued incarceration of petty Cannabis criminals only perpetuates the vicious cycle of unjust imprisonment.
Undoing this one prohibition, and Rescheduling Cannabis will have many gains.
A. The enforcement costs of a non-sensical set of drugs laws will disappear.
B. The imprisonment costs for this will disappear.
C. The costs of processing prisoners and offenders through the justice system will disappear.
D. The people who are party to this injustice will no longer be affected and neither will their families.
E. Most importantly – something that should not have logically been forbidden in the first place.
The net benefits to society are both cultural, economic, and progressive.
2. Economic Benefits
a. Not only will there cease to be enforcement and justice expenditures but there will not be new commerce that was previously relegated to the black market.
b. The new commerce will benefit all stakeholders. The retail price of Cannabis will go down for consumers, the business and industry will generate revenue, jobs, and positive economic movement.
3. Medicinal Value
Those people suffering from debilitating diseases such as Epilepsy, Cancer, Cachexia, and Wasting Syndrome to name a few will have some relief.
4. Tax Benefits to the States and potentially the Federal Government
The states and potentially the Federal Government will follow in Colorado’s model and be able to pay for education, Cannabis use by minors prevention, and many other badly needed governmental programs that will be funded by the simple regulation of this industry.
5. Safety for consumers/patients upon full legalization and complete and proper regulation and taxation.
Once there’s a proper system in place, a-la the liquor industry, we can see that it’s harder for minors to get their hands on the product, it’s safer for consumers, and all stake holders benefit. Rules can be created controlling the retail sale times, quality, and all other aspects of licensing that come along with a properly regulated industry.”
Just because Maine’s legislators gave a blow to recreational marijuana, this year doesn’t mean the voters can’t do any workarounds. Already, a signature campaign to pass the measure in the 2016 ballots is in the works. If Maine and Massachusetts legalize recreational marijuana, both would proudly represent New England states, with Vermont, included in the race.
Backers of the Maine initiative believe that there are bigger issues that need to be resolved. These include more violent crimes, property crimes and so on. Focusing on possessing small amounts of cannabis just calls for unnecessary expenses.
Compared to other states, Vermont has more legislators that directly back efforts to legalize recreational pot. If these efforts push through in 2016, the lawmakers behind the new legislation would be the first to challenge the federal stand against legalizing cannabis. But if ballot initiatives are the way to go, there will always be voters to support the measure. We’ll soon find out as 2016 fast approaches.
Nevada is that one state where you can almost be certain that any initiative supporting recreational cannabis will win in the ballots. People in Nevada just want to be on par with the rest of the states already getting ready for the 2016 elections. Supporters are already gathering signatures to finalize the proposed initiative.
Recreational weed becoming legal in Nevada will surely offer plenty of benefits. For one, tourists who come for the casinos in Las Vegas would also gain access to weed. Whether you’re in for medical or recreational pot, it would all be here in Nevada. The influx of revenue will also boost the state’s economy with more taxes added per year.
Here’s what one major backer of marijuana legalization in Nevada has to say:
“The benefits of legalized cannabis are myriad, starting with the tax revenue that is coming to states where patients are able to purchase medical marijuana. After that, we are looking at the revenue raised by adult recreational use. Really think about this — Colorado alone brought in $53 million of tax revenue in 2014 and is predicted to grow to as high as $94 million by 2016.
Oregon sold more than $11 million during the first week of legal sales. These numbers vary from state to state, but clearly, there is a burgeoning legal market here that is going to offer many legislatures a significant increase in dollars. This money may be used to support our school systems, law enforcement and even the development of healthcare infrastructure. It will save taxpayer dollars as well, in that not as many nonviolent criminals will need to be incarcerated.
This is an expense that many Americans do not think much about but it costs roughly the same amount to house someone in prison for a year as it costs for a year of college tuition. There is, of course, the benefit to the business community as well. If the tax revenue being generated is this high, the profit margin for investors in the cannabis space could be tremendous. ”
Leslie Bocskor- Managing Partner at Electrum Partners, founding chairman of the Nevada Cannabis Industry Association.
Why Legalize recreational cannabis now
“The most compelling reason for legalization are the harms caused by marijuana prohibition and the fact that these harms disproportionately impact poor people of color. This group is arrested for drugs at a much higher rate than whites despite similar rates of drug use. The sanctions associated with a drug offense include loss of employment, housing, professional licensure, funding for college, the right to vote and the right to be a parent. Regardless of the financial incentives for legalization, this is still, at its core, a human rights issue.”
Amanda Reiman, Ph.D. MSW, Drug Policy Alliance
What happens when recreational cannabis is finally legalized across the United States? Patients get full access to medical marijuana. Dispensaries no longer require prescriptions. More importantly, an overhaul of the incarcerations process takes place.
And the list goes on and on.
Unfortunately, we have yet to reach such stage of federal legalization. And calls for such to become a reality have never been louder. Here are the top reasons why recreational cannabis must be legalized now.
#1: Marijuana Safer than Alcohol, Other Drugs
Think about it. According to CDC, more than 43,982 deaths in 2013 alone were related to a drug overdose. And about 51.8% (22,767) of these comprise prescription drug overdose. The culprit? A lethal mixture of benzodiazepines and opioid painkillers often does the lethal job.
In 2011, drug misuse led to about 2.5 million Emergency visits. And again, prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines, plus those used to treat anxiety and insomnia, were the leading culprits. But where does marijuana belong in the statistics of a drug overdose?
Marijuana Overdose: Is it Possible?
While there have been no recorded deaths from a marijuana overdose, you might want to ask whether such case is really possible. Yes, it is. But you need to take about 20,000 to 40,000 times the amount of THC normally found in the cannabis herb, and in one sitting, to die of an overdose. Sounds impossible indeed. So, there is no chance you’d ever going to die with THC.
A Closer Look at Marijuana Related Deaths
Recently, there have been reports of death related to marijuana use. What were the exact causes? Were they even caused by THC overdose?
To date, there has been a total of 15 deaths related to the use of cannabis. But 13 of the cases were attributed to other factors, according to the report. The remaining two cases, however, were isolated cases that had the deaths linked primarily to cannabis use. But even so, one of the two who died had a heart condition previously undetected. The other individual, age 28, had a reported history of drug and alcohol use. So, we still can’t zero in on the use of cannabis itself as the sole reason for the death of the two individuals.
What About Alcohol-Related Death?
While there have been just two marijuana-related deaths recorded so far, striking statistics go with the use of alcohol. According to CDC, alcohol abuse is still America’s leading cause of preventable death. From 2006 to 2010, records showed alcohol-related dangerous behaviors resulted in 88,000 deaths per year.
By estimates, about two-thirds of these deaths were the result of too much alcohol consumption among adults in the working-age demographics. On average, alcohol abuse also shortens an individual’s lifespan by 30 years. And deaths usually stem from the effects of long-term health effects of alcohol such as liver disease, cardiovascular condition, and cancer.
With such relatively staggering numbers, it doesn’t take much analysis to conclude how far safer cannabis is when compared to alcohol. The same holds true when we compare deaths related to the use of prescription drugs. So, perhaps the question now should be directed toward the persistent efforts of some to keep the status of marijuana locked within the Federal Government’s category as a Schedule I drug.
By placing cannabis under Schedule I, it is theoretically as dangerous as some of the most abused drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroine. Yet it is clear that there have been no recorded cases of death from marijuana overdose.
#2: Justice By the Numbers: More People Incarcerated for Marijuana Possession
One FBI report shows that in 2010, marijuana possession accounts for a whopping 45.8 percent of drug abuse violations leading to arrests. So, if there were estimated 1,638,846 individuals arrested for such violation that year, that 45.8 percent would mean more than 750,000 arrested for what the federal government still defines as a crime. That does not include violations from sale and growing of marijuana.
After all the growing evidence that marijuana is nothing but a harmless piece of herb with potentially priceless benefits to those suffering from certain medical conditions, the silver lining ahead still seems a tad blurry.
To make matters worse, even in states where medical marijuana is legal, the prosecution against those selling medical cannabis is still possible. Technically, the use, production, and sale of marijuana are still illegal under federal law. And this is where the very confounding question sets in: How do we deal with such a case where the use of such drug is criminal under federal law but is legal under state law?
Highlighting the controversial conflict between the federal and states laws are cases like what Mr. Charles C. Lynch of California has experienced. In 2006, Mr. Lynch opened his dispensary in Morro Bay. Even the mayor at that time came for the ribbon cutting. Compliant with the state law, Mr. Lynch’s store had done perfectly well until he was arrested and convicted of crimes for selling cannabis.
Mr. Lynch’s case, along with other pending ones in the Department of Justice, is facing an uphill battle. And the only hope for such issues to be resolved in the defendants’ favor (at least for those who in good faith acted under the state’s laws) is for marijuana to be legalized at the national level.
All these cases and legal battles mirror just some of the biggest challenges we face as we fight for the legalization of cannabis use.
Amanda Reiman, Marijuana Law and Policy Manager of Drug Policy Alliance: “The challenges include decades of mistruths and propaganda regarding marijuana. This image of marijuana as a dangerous drug was invented in the early 1900’s as a way of demonizing and controlling Mexican immigrants. This image then propelled marijuana into the Schedule 1 category, deeming it highly addictive and having no medical value. This false image of marijuana, along with the policies resulting from that image, are the biggest barriers to moving legalization forward on the federal level. I do not think things will change until perhaps other countries begin changing their policies.”
“The mistruths about marijuana and the propaganda I mentioned above still exists and impacts how many people feel about marijuana. However, the impact of that propaganda is beginning to fade as people are learning more accurate information about marijuana,” she added.
Indeed, changes in policies and better education that opens our mind to the health benefits of marijuana must come into play to help take our cause to the next level.
#3: With Lesser Arrests, America Will Save Billions
So, imagine if those estimated 750,000 annual arrests for simple marijuana possession is dismissed. The United States would probably save billions of dollars — from police arrests to handling the cases in court to incarceration.
So let’s talk about numbers:
According to the Urban Institute Justice Policy Center, it takes about $21,006 to keep every inmate in a minimum-security prison. Assuming that there are about $757,969 inmates (arrested for marijuana possession) inside the minimum-security jails across the country, the total yearly cost would be about $15,921,896,814! And if the average length of stay of marijuana-related offenders is three years, that’s more than $47 billion. Such huge, unnecessary amount spent by the U.S. could have been rechanneled toward education, retirement benefits of perhaps more important sectors of the economy.
By legalizing recreational marijuana (albeit regulating its use just like alcohol), the billions of dollars spent would surely make a huge impact on other matters more important than keeping someone in prison for an alleged “crime.” And such crime has even had far less gravity than drinking alcohol.
Imagine this. A recent report suggests that smoking marijuana is significantly safer than drinking alcohol. In fact, the risks of taking alcohol can be on par with the risks of taking other drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Yet each year, more people are sent to jail for possessing marijuana. This goes to show how the threat of an arrest or a possible incarceration
#4: The Medical Benefits of Marijuana is Overwhelming
So obvious are the medical benefits of marijuana that CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta backs them. And as he said, ”It’s time for a medical marijuana revolution.”
One well-known case of marijuana’s benefits was aired by CNN. Then five-year-old Charlotte Figi was suffering from Dravet Syndrome. One outstanding symptom of this debilitating disease is the occurrence of frequent seizures starting early in life. In Charlotte’s case, she would go into seizures for about 1,200 times in a month. And each episode would last for hours.
Charlotte had started experiencing this disabling condition since she was three months old. During those times, she couldn’t even do the most mundane things such as walking, talking, eating or drinking.
Then her parents decided to try using drops of cannabis oil. And much to their surprise, the seizures stopped. Today, these bouts appear only two to three times per month.
Charlotte’s case caught the attention and support of Dr. Gupta. To date, it has become one of Dr. Gupta’s focal point in showcasing what cannabis could offer in the medical world. Her treatment has also become one of the most inspiring cases that pushed many to believe in marijuana’s wonders.
Imagine if full-blown research — the one unrestricted by the federal government — would finally be done. We can only imagine the enormous amount of data these studies could yield. But until then, most of us rely only on patches of personal accounts and some documented breakthroughs.
The benefits of pot aren’t just isolated in people with seizures. People with a chronic headache or body pains, Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS even gastrointestinal problems have experienced cannabis’ therapeutic powers too. And it doesn’t stop there. How about cancer? Yes. There have been cases highlighting the healing effects of cannabis oil among people with skin cancer.
In the world of religion, an open agreement to the use of cannabis may not be that remarkable. But surprisingly, the Dalai Lama happens to support medical cannabis. In his visit to Mexico, the Tibetan religious leader expressed his support for marijuana use if it would be for medical purposes. But he also cautioned, saying, “…if it’s just an issue of somebody (using the drug to have) a crazy mind, that’s not good.”
The benefits of cannabis are so widely documented. In fact, we can write a separate lengthy article about it if we’d want to. So there ‘s no question that legalizing it at the federal level is inevitable. What the states do to pass their own measures are helpful stepping-stones to spread the word that cannabis is safe compared to alcohol and many prescription drugs.
The more people openly claim the benefits of weed, the greater the pressure for the federal government to reconsider its stance. So there ‘s no question that legalizing it at the federal level is inevitable.
What the states do to pass their own measures are helpful stepping-stones to spread the word that cannabis is safe compared to alcohol and many prescription drugs. The more people openly claim the benefits of weed, the greater the pressure for the federal government to reconsider its stance.
#5: Legalization Will NOT Increase Marijuana Use
No long-term study has yet been done to monitor Colorado’s (and other states where recreational pot is legal) progress. Yet we’re bound to ask one perplexing question. Will legalize recreational cannabis use lead to more demand or abuse of the drug?
To answer the question, we can only refer to studies done in states where medical cannabis is legal. In one large study in states where medical cannabis is legal, the use of weed among teenagers did not increase following the legalization of medical cannabis. Even in Colorado, where recreational pot was legalized in 2013, pot use among teenagers is declining. This trend is also evident elsewhere in the United States.
Additional data that supports this counterintuitive trend can be found in Portugal. This European country passed full legalization of cannabis in 2013. Here, those who use pot are not treated as criminals. Those who experience dependence or addiction are sent to rehab. So, our first impression would be that the prevalence of marijuana use would skyrocket. But the opposite happened. From 2001 to 2006, use of marijuana among Portuguese teens had decreased from 26% to 19%.
But why is marijuana use declining instead among teens in places where pot is legal?
One answer might be the thrill factor among teenagers to try things that are “bad, ” or “illegal” dies down the moment something, say, marijuana becomes legal. Anything that’s legal no longer fits as an ideal target for teenagers to try just to try to be “cool” or play it rebellious in their younger years. Another reason for the non-increase of marijuana use might be that a large number of people have already been using pot even before measures were passed to legalize the herb. The only difference now is the elimination of fear of getting caught or sent to jail.
The decline in cannabis use among teenager is also good news because of recent studies suggesting its use might affect the IQ among teenagers.
From a general perspective, making something legal doesn’t necessarily mean its uncontrolled use.
Case in point: alcohol use.
Drinking alcohol is legal in the U.S., but that freedom didn’t send the entire country into a frenzied downward spiral of abuse, civil unrest and a zombie population intoxicated by liquor. Perhaps society corrects itself through its members every time a threat from anything looms ahead.
The same thing can be said of marijuana. While many people use the herb to enjoy the flavors with every hit, many others use it for medical reasons. Even those who heavily vape or smoke weed and become dependent don’t suffer the kind of addiction brought by heroin, cocaine, and meth. There may be a few cases of abuse, but each person’s drive to set his or her priorities in order doesn’t place the use of pot at the top of their needs. In other words, the government doesn’t need to be so controlling of what we ought to do or not to do especially when the issue is the use of weed that’s even safer than alcohol.
A final thought
Any country on the verge of a cultural revolution faces the natural process of apprehensions, hope and willpower playing together for a greater resolve. Despite the majority of the Americans believing in legalizing marijuana, many others remain skeptical. This is perfectly normal. Yet a large number of believers means that marijuana isn’t really a bad thing after all.
It is completely understandable that a tug-of-war game is still at play between fierce critics against cannabis use and the supporters. But even the lack of research does not hinder the growing number of evidence and personal accounts of how marijuana isn’t a dangerous drug. It’s even safer than alcohol!
The eventual legalization of marijuana will no longer be a question of “if,” but a question of “when.” So far, referendums and legislations passed state by state are showing positive signs. The only setbacks some have seen are cases where possible opportunists take advantage of the potential profits earned by trading cannabis. One case in point is Ohio’s failed ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana. The freedom to grow and trade marijuana was supposed to be given only to a limited number of facilities, hence the public’s outcry over potential monopoly and the persistence of corporate greed.
Despite the challenges, we remain steadfast that soon, this long been berated herb will soon change our ways we take care of our health and socialize with others. That time is near.