Marijuana is rapidly growing in popularity and is currently sweeping the nation. Ten states, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, California, Alaska, Michigan, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Washington D.C have already legalized, and more and more states are pushing for the legalization of this drug. Typically, younger people gravitate towards legalizing, although about 62% of all Americans are in favor of making marijuana legal, including 74% of millennials (Geiger and Hartig). Despite the popularity, there is currently heavy debate about this topic, and whether marijuana should be legalized on a federal level or not. Most people against legalization believe common misconceptions that are spread to young children through schools to teach them not to try drugs, including substantially negative physical effects and that marijuana is addictive, toxic, and fatal. On the contrary, there are multiple different factors that provide evidence and contribute towards the claim that marijuana should be nationally legalized, which include; decreased crime rates, substantial positive effects on the economy, marijuana is not an addictive substance, the positive physical effects on people, increased safety for consumers, and it creates jobs.
The crime rate in the United States is astronomically high. There are currently about 2.2 million adults in the prison system, which is a higher population than all but four cities in the country (Kann). The United States prison system is larger than any other country, and most of that can be attributed to drugs. In 2016, marijuana possession remained at the top of all charges, accounting for about 5% of all arrests across the country (Ingraham). Between 2001 and 2010, over 7 million arrests were made for simply carrying any small amount of marijuana (“Marijuana Arrests by the Numbers”). In 2017 alone, about 660,000 people were arrested for a marijuana violation, 91% of those people being arrested solely for possession (“Drug War Statistics”). It is also worth noting that, while both blacks and whites use the same amounts of marijuana, blacks are about four times as likely to be arrested than whites for the same charge (“Marijuana Arrests by the Numbers”). The United States is constantly looked down upon by other countries due to the disgustingly high crime rates that are, in fact, misleading. Legalizing possession of certain amounts of marijuana can drastically change the numbers of crime rate reports. Not only will people carrying a miniscule amount of marijuana be safe from adding to these statistics, but the legalization of this drug can wipe out drug operations, the people who were supplying and in possession of massive amounts of marijuana, and delete them from crime reports, as well.
Being the first state to legalize marijuana, Colorado is successful in reducing numbers of incarceration. As previously stated in the article “Drug War Statistics,” 660,000 people were arrested on marijuana charges, across the country, in 2017 alone. In 2017, Colorado only recorded around 516,000 total arrests across the state for all charges (Effgen). There were more people arrested for marijuana possession in the country than total people arrested in all of Colorado. If this country can, at the least, decriminalize this drug, the sheer numbers of arrests will inevitably drop. Not only will the crime rate itself drop, but the amount of money being spent on inmates who are in jail for marijuana charges will drop tremendously, as well.
As previously explained, there are currently around 2.2 million adults in the United States prison system, around 660,000 of which are due to marijuana charges (Kann; “Drug War Statistics”). Even though these inmates are locked up, they still need to be taken care of, which also needs to be paid for. Between the feeding them, providing proper clothing and sanitation, and maintaining the prison, the average cost to house just one inmate is about $31,000 (“How Much Does It Cost to Send Someone to Prison?”). This number will vary from state to state; however, the numbers remain large where ever you go. States also annually waste over $3 billion enforcing marijuana laws (“Marijuana Arrests by the Numbers”). These numbers are far too large in general, but when you factor in marijuana charges, that is a massive amount of money to be paying for a crime that is no longer a crime in ten other states. Using that number, it equates to over $20 billion spent on housing prisoners who were incarcerated for marijuana. Spending this monstrous amount of money on prisoners that do not deserve to be in prison in the first place is quite atrocious. Every state struggles with funding of some sort and taking this money and putting it somewhere could help every state immensely.
Not only can the states save money from legalizing marijuana, they can also bring in more money. There are about $23 million in added legalization costs, but even after those added costs there is a net gain of around $35 million (Zhang). States that have legalized have a high income from the dispensaries that are opened for distribution. Consumers spent over $9 billion on legal cannabis in 2017 alone, with about 25% of dispensaries totaling over $1 million in annual revenue (“How Profitable Is the Average Cannabis Dispensary?”). Legal marijuana is selling at high rates that show no sign of slowing down. Michigan recently legalized and at the opening of their first recreational dispensary they had heated tents and food trucks outside anticipating a large amount of people to show up. Legalization on a federal level could result in an additional $25 billion between 2015 and 2025 (Zhang). Also, due to the heavy regulation of the growing and distribution of this drug, the government can put a hefty tax on the drug, as well. In Washington state, the tax on marijuana reached as high as a 37% sales tax, which alone raised government revenue (El-Sibaie). Higher sales tax on marijuana results in higher revenues and income that will heavily benefit the government.
One might object here that marijuana is addictive, will lead to other stronger drugs, and can be fatal. But this just is not the case. Millions of people have tried marijuana and use it daily, but less than 10% of users show signs of addiction. People are about four times more likely to get addicted to tobacco and almost twice as likely to get addicted to alcohol, both of which have been and currently are legal in the United States. The gate-way theory is highly debated but there is no evidence that shows that marijuana leads to use of stronger, more dangerous, drugs. More importantly, the estimated fatal dose of the chemical in marijuana, THC, is between fifteen and seventy grams. An average joint contains about six-hundredths of a gram of THC. This means that it would take at least 238 joints in one day to have a possibility of killing someone (“No, Marijuana Is Not Actually ‘as Addictive as Heroin.’”). In the state of Washington, they estimate that the average marijuana user only smokes 123 joints per year (Young). Frequent marijuana users do not even smoke what is enough to kill you in one day in an entire year. Marijuana, technically, can be fatal, but it is almost impossible to die just from the use of it.
Marijuana has multiple substantially positive effects. People use marijuana for more than just the “high.” Medical marijuana is legal in more states than recreational, but it is still not legal on a federal level and is just as highly debated. People with either long-term life-altering or terminal illnesses benefit greatly from medicinal marijuana. Pain is the main reason that people ask for a medical marijuana prescription, as it helps to alleviate chronic pain. Doctors also prescribe to help with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy from cancer, they prescribe to boost appetites of HIV patients who are losing weight, and many more conditions (Harding). Recreational use of marijuana can also affect the moods of users. It serves an efficient stress reliever. At low doses, marijuana has been found to alleviate stress (Newman). Stress affects people across the country in many ways and can lead to other mental health illnesses. Depression and anxiety are both mental health illnesses that affect people just like normal diseases. They have a multitude of negative effects on people who suffer from them and marijuana has been known to regulate and help people with them. The legalization of marijuana will help people across the country to become happier and less stressed, which in turn can lead to these people being healthier.