Although a lot went wrong in 2016, progress was most definitely made for the legalization of marijuana. Four states, including California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada all legalized recreational marijuana usage. Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Montana all legalized medical usage of the drug. Although progress has been made, there is still a lot of stigma around using marijuana both recreationally and medically. There are many benefits to legalizing marijuana including economic, civil, and medical purposes. These benefits can be seen in states that have already legalized the drug like Colorado and Washington. The Justice Department, however, has stated that there will be “a greater enforcement of federal laws,” which one can assume means a greater enforcement of federal marijuana laws. Because of this, I feel it is necessary to bring up the benefits of marijuana and why, as a country, we would be better off if the drug was legal across the board.
To start, I would like to call your attention to the economic benefits of having marijuana being legal in your state. According to the Marijuana Policy group, legal marijuana activity in Colorado, in 2015 alone, generated $2.39 billion. Not only does legal marijuana stimulate economic activity, but it also creates jobs. In Colorado that same year the marijuana industry created 18,005 full-time equivalent positions. According to this study, the industry is projected to grow 11.5% through 2020. Even considering the possibility that the industry could shrink in each state when it is eventually legalized across the country, there is still a lot of room to grow in the next 3 years. Legalizing marijuana has huge economic potential, but the list of benefits doesn’t stop there.
To compound this economic benefit, the civil benefit of not sending people to prison for possession and intent to sell charges would save the tax payers money and put less people behind bars. According to the Vera Institute of Justice the average cost per prisoner per state is $31,286. According to drugpolicy.org , in 2015 643,121 people were arrested on marijuana law violations; of those arrests 89% of them were on possession charges alone. To do some simple math that means we as a country spend about $20,120,683,606 on incarceration for marijuana charges. America also currently has the highest incarceration rate in the world of about 1 in every 111 adults , or 2,224,400 people. Not only would the legalization of the drug lower the cost of prisons, it would also award more personal freedom to each and every American.
Lastly, the medical benefits of marijuana are also great in number. According to Business Insider, marijuana has potential to treat glaucoma, alleviate harm to lungs after smoking tobacco, epileptic seizures, anxiety, and even slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. It can also help with dieting by increasing your metabolism. It has been shown to spur creative activity and even help cancer patients with their appetite. These are only a few of the cases marijuana has been shown to help prevent, slow, or heal. The complete list of benefits of marijuana, in a medical sense, have yet to be seen and will become present when medical marijuana is legalized in all 50 states.
Legalizing marijuana in all 50 states would create a multitude of benefits for our nation. Legalization would lead to an economic boom, creating huge gains in our GDP, tax dollars for funding our government, and new jobs across the nation. Legalization would help with the ridiculously high incarceration rate in the United States. It also wraps back around to helping economically by reducing the amount of money we spend on incarceration. Lastly, the innumerable potential and proven benefits in the medical field would have an immeasurable impact on the United States medical industry. As an after thought, it is rather hypocritical of the President to enforce federal law on some issues while leaving decisions up to the states on other issues; an infamous example being the Trump administration’s rollback on transgender rights. The President is simply using the selective application of state’s rights to push his own personal, misguided agenda, and it is frankly disgusting and disappointing.