What are the consequences of cannabis legalisation? Two years ago Colorado and Washington state were the first of the United States to legalise recreational use of cannabis. Slowly the first results become visible.
Cannabis legalisation has many advantages: increased tax revenues, more jobs and decreased crime rates.
In Colorado, from January to October 2014, the state sold just under $250 million of recreational cannabis and more than $325 million in medical sales. In October already more than $40 million in tax revenues was brought in, which will be set aside for substance abuse treatment, public health and youth prevention services.
Currently, Colorado has 10.000 people working in the cannabis industry. Obviously these numbers will rise when cannabis will be legalised in more states. CannaInsider believes the legal cannabis industry will create 200.000 new jobs in the US in 2015.
All for the economy?
According to research agency GreenWave the cannabis industry in the United States could be worth $35 billion in 6 years, in case all states would legalise the plant and federal prohibition would come to an end. When legalisation will continue at its current speed the industry will still be worth around 21 billion in 2020, they predict.
However, these figures might be a bit optimistic: some states are still very conservative, and it's unlikely legalisation will happen soon over there.
The current focus on economy can be questioned as well. Some companies already patented popular strains, thereby monopolising the market. Another trend is the upsurge in the sale of cannabis concentrates. Besides being more pure, they are also very strong. Especially high THC rates can have adverse mental health effects. In the current legalisation craze these aspects seem to be somewhat forgotten. Also, it's doubtful whether the economy should be the sole reason for legalisation instead of, for example, health or the freedom of consciousness.
Crime rates down
According to FBI crime statistics, nearly half of drug arrests in the U.S. can be attributed to cannabis: about 40% of drug arrests are for cannabis possession only, 5% for production or sale of the popular herb. Obviously these rates go down when cannabis isn’t illegal any more.
In Colorado, where cannabis is legally sold since the first of January 2014, the first quarter of the year saw a 6.9 percent drop in violent crime and an 11.1 percent drop in property crime when compared to the first quarter of 2013.
Contrary to expectations of those against legalisation the number of driving fatalities and the numbers of hard drug use in Colorado went down too. Also, rates of cannabis use in high school youth haven’t increased. However, there’s no evidence these trends relate to legalisation directly .
So far only Alaska, Oregon, Colorado and Washington state have fully legalised recreational use of the herb. In another 19 states it’s possible to buy cannabis with a medical prescription. In more states elections for either medical or recreational use are pending.
Alaska and Oregon have voted for legalisation only a couple of months ago. From the start of 2016 it will be possible to legally buy cannabis in stores. Once legalisation occurs it usually takes at least a year to implement regulations and make products available for sale. Thus, as legalisation is a fairly new phenomenon, only in the following years we will learn more about the exact consequences.
Update: In a recent speech, president Obama expressed the expectation that legalization will continue in all states.
Written by: Juniper