The history of cannabis legalization in the US began in many states as early as 1906, when many states increased restrictions on its use and began to label it as a poison.
Outright prohibitions began in the 1920s and in 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was enacted, which prohibited cannabis use at the federal level.
Even though medically, cannabis is not considered to have a sleep-inducing property, in legal terms, it is classified as a “narcotic” which makes it forbidden or regulated by law.
The decriminalization of marijuana did not start until the early 1970’s, with Oregon becoming the first state to decriminalize cannabis.
This led to a relaxation of cannabis laws in many US states. In 1973, Oregon and Texas reduced the penalty on possession of marijuana. Shortly after in 1975, Alaska, Maine, Colorado, California, and Ohio decriminalized cannabis.
A year later in 1976, Minnesota decriminalized cannabis followed by Mississippi, New York, and North Carolina in 1977 and Nebraska in 1978.
With rapid decriminalization of marijuana, the legalization of medical marijuana came into the limelight and thus medical cannabis use started in the 1990s.
California was among the first American states to ban marijuana in the year 1913. However, it was also the first to legalize medical marijuana use in 1996. In 2000, Colorado followed suit and legalized medical use of marijuana and also became one of the first to legalize its recreational use in 2012.
In the same year, Massachusetts also legalized the use of medical marijuana.
The years that followed saw a massive wave of marijuana popularisation with Colorado and Washington becoming the first two states to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, following the passage of Amendment 64 and Initiative 502.
The year 2016 was an important one with Pennsylvania and Ohio legalizing medical cannabis through a state legislature and California, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota legalizing medical cannabis through a ballot measure.
Many states followed in 2017 until recently in 2018 Vermont became the first state to legalize recreational cannabis by way of a state legislature and Oklahoma legalized medical cannabis through a ballot measure.
How the US had benefited from cannabis legalization so far
The legalization of cannabis in the US has opened up a lot of economic and social opportunities. Here are some propitious benefits that cannabis legalization has created in the US:
The legalization of marijuana in most US states has led to an increase in pot-tourists, thus giving rise to what is now known as “canna tourism.”
This form of tourism has flourished mostly in the states of Colorado and Washington which allows visitors to sample an array of marijuana products in the cities coffeehouses and cafes.
Washington D.C. saw an increase in marijuana tourism searches by 107% while California saw an increase in marijuana tourism searches by 299%.
In Fact, the medical marijuana market in California is bigger than the combined cannabis market(medical and recreational) of Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.
We can only imagine how big the California market will get when the marijuana becomes recreationally legal here. Property values have soared as well, with housing rates actually increasing by 6%.
2. Revenue generation
Apart from medical benefits, the main reason for the legalization of marijuana is the huge revenue it creates for both manufacturers and the government.
Marijuana products such as edibles, oils, tinctures, and strains generate a massive income in the US in the form of sales and tax revenue.
A report by Arcview Market Research, in partnership with BDS Analytics, estimates that the cannabis industry owed $1 billion in state taxes in 2016, $1.4 billion for 2017 and the Legal marijuana industry could generate $40 billion in economic impact by 2021.
From 2014 until May 2018, Colorado’s marijuana taxes, license and fee revenues have totaled more than $700 million.
Although California legalized recreational marijuana use for adults 21 and older this year itself on January 1st, 2018; its tax revenues are expected to top $5 billion this year alone.
3. Marijuana taxes benefit society
The cannabis industry is so much more than the production and sale of marijuana. The tax revenue from legal marijuana sales is being used for benefiting the society as a whole.
In Colorado, marijuana money is funding school construction, drug abuse treatment and mental health services, as well as law enforcement and grants to farmers. And, in Washington, it’s supporting public health and local government needs.
4. Investment bloom in the cannabis industry
With top pot stocks coming into the picture, investment in the canna industry is all set to bloom.
The rapid growth in the marijuana industry has opened tons of opportunities for a number of new startups to develop products, technologies, and services apart from the cultivation and distribution of marijuana itself.
Many marijuana companies are promising investors the opportunity to invest for potential future growth. New startups are coming up and the old ones have begun to realize how lucrative this industry can be.
There are businesses involved not only in the production of cannabis products but also in canna-business related to agriculture, ancillary products, retail, industrial hemp and organic farms are also blooming.
5. Availability of medical cannabis
Cannabis is known for its countless benefits and it’s legalization ensures safe and efficient access to medical marijuana. Cannabis has given hope to patients suffering from terminal diseases.
Currently, cannabis has shown promising results in the treatment of the following diseases:
- Crohn’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Chronic pain
- Nervous system degeneration
However, further research is required to prove if cannabis can actually become a possible cure for these diseases that have been deemed incurable as of now.
6. Safe cannabis access
In a country where cannabis is legalized but regulated, samples need to be routinely tested and certified to ensure increased consumer safety.
With legalization, testing labs and certification facilities are rapidly growing where product testing is becoming more common in the legal marijuana industry.
This has helped the consumers to gain accurate and credible information about marijuana’s potency, quality and dosage thereby decreasing consumer harm and increasing their awareness.
The use of cannabis has been a topic of debate for many decades and many people are still of the view that the cannabis use could generate further problems.
The psychoactive effect of cannabis is one of the biggest issues that people face during its use. Moreover, its impact on our lungs, mind, and perception are some of the reasons that have created a hindrance in effectively spreading awareness and convincing people about its benefits.
Many people are still of the view that though cannabis has its benefits, it has some ill-effects that need to be taken care of in order to permit its open use.
But something that calls for our attention is the fact that tobacco and alcohol are openly available for use everywhere whereas cannabis is still classified as a harmful drug. Does this signal towards a lack of awareness on our part?
6 powerful ways the U.S could benefit from full marijuana legalization
1. Decrease in law enforcement cost
The US Government currently spends as much as $20 billion a year on the prevention and restriction efforts on illegal marijuana use. The legalization of marijuana could enable the government to direct this revenue for social and economic upliftment.
2. Generation of employment opportunities
Today, an estimated 165,000 to 230,000 people are employed in the cannabis industry in the United States. And that number is only expected to grow as more states legalize the drug recreationally.
3. Decrease in crimes
The legalization of marijuana will enable people to grow it in their own homes or purchase it from a state-approved dispensary.
Legalization would logically end the need for such criminal behavior and judicial system could focus on more violent and dangerous crimes that actually require attention.
4. The Benefit to the agricultural sector
The legalization of marijuana will fuel widespread cultivation which means farmers, fertilizer firms, and other agricultural manufacturers, all stand to benefit.
As consumers push for more organic products, it could even stimulate organic cultivation. This means a reduction in illegal farming and fertilizer pollution which is better for the environment as well.
5. A Possible solution for the opioid crisis
According to a report published in The Centre For Disease Control And Prevention, there were more than 63,600 drug overdose deaths in the United States in the year 2016, out of which around 42,249 involved an opioid.
Cannabis provides one of the safest alternatives to opioids which can possibly solve the opioid epidemic in the future.
6. Increased demand for other businesses
legalization of marijuana will enable the establishment and growth of other business as growers require warehouse space and lighting and irrigation equipment.
Moreover, the demand for local services such as contractors, lawyers, and bookkeepers will get a boost from marijuana legalization.
Famous people who support the legal cannabis movement
The legal cannabis movement has been supported by a number of important people from former US President Obama to spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama. Here are some important famous celebrities in the cannabis business:
1. Snoop Dogg
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org
This famous rap artist has been an outspoken supporter of the cannabis industry for years and has his own cannabis brand called Leafs by Snoop.
2. Ricky Williams
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org
The former all-pro NFL running back Ricky Williams is among the most avid supporters of cannabis use for sports. He is also the co-founder of a cannabis-friendly gym called Power Plant Fitness and Wellness.
3. Tommy Chong
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org
One of the earliest celebrities to enter into the cannabis culture, Tommy Chong owns a celebrity dispensary, selling a variety of marijuana items, including Chong’s Choice which are pre-rolled cones and also has his own strain called Chong Star.
4. Wiz Khalifa
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org
Wiz Khalifa has his own brand of beautifully-packaged bud and extracts which is sold in particularly in California and Colorado.
He has his own strain of weed called Khalifa Kush and has entered into a partnership with RAW Rolling Papers to produce a unique collection of smoking accessories.
5. Justin Trudeau – Prime Minister of Canada
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/
The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, introduced legislation which fueled the process of making recreational marijuana legal in Canada in 2018.
The Canadian government believes legalizing recreational weed could generate C$5 billion to C$7 billion in annual revenue.
The future of legal marijuana in the US
As far as the legalization of cannabis is concerned, some challenges are sure to arise in all states. A significant concern for lawmakers is clarifying what level of THC is acceptable.
In spite of the widespread popularity of cannabis, about 21% of the total U.S. population lives in states that have legalized recreational cannabis.
However, the share is only expected to grow in the coming years as a growing number of states are relaxing their marijuana laws.
Image Source: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/
The percentage of adults in the U.S. who favor legalizing marijuana was found to be 315 in 2000 and has since doubled to the highest level ever.
According to a telephonic survey by Pew Research Center of 1,504 adults, almost six-in-ten Americans (61%) say the use of marijuana should be legalized.
The survey was conducted in October 2017 and it was found to be 45% higher than the previous year when 57% of Americans were in favor of marijuana legalization.
The highest level of support (about 70%) came from millennials whereas 58% of the older generation opposed legalization.
Another survey from Gallup, conducted at the same time showed a similar rise in the support of legalization. Gallup first asked national adults about their views on the topic in 1969, when 12% supported legalization.
As efforts to legalize marijuana at the state level continue to yield successes, public opinion, too, has shifted towards greater support.
The growing public support for legal marijuana continues to grow as more states have legalized the drug for recreational purposes.
The journey of cannabis legalization in the US has been a long one and as recent as January 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Cole Memorandum, which discouraged U.S.
Attorneys from enforcing federal law against state-legal cannabis enterprises. Hopefully, with all of this attention the cause has gained, more will actively support new legalization legislation at the next available opportunity.
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