Monday was the five-year anniversary of Colorado voters passing Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in the state, writes Joseph Misulonas. Since then, Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Nevada have all implemented their own recreational laws, and California, Maine and Massachusetts are in the process of doing so as well.
So how has marijuana legalization benefited the United States in the past five years? Here are 10 ways:
1. Tax Revenue
The easiest number to show how marijuana legalization has improved America is with taxes. Colorado has generated over $500 million worth of revenue thanks to cannabis taxes since implementing legalization in 2014. Washington made over $250 million in 2016 alone. And all those numbers are increasing, since states are hitting sales records seemingly every month.
Besides taxes, jobs is another area where the marijuana industry has helped Americans. While exact numbers aren’t 100 percent known, It is estimated that between 165,000 and 230,000 people are employed in the cannabis industry in the United States right now. And that number will only grow as more states legalize the drug recreationally.
3. Opioid Overdose Reduction
Even though states have just recently legalized marijuana, we already know that it’s led to a decrease in opioid overdoses. A study showed that in just the first year after Colorado legalized cannabis, opioid deaths went down 6.5 percent, reversing a several year trend of overdose deaths decreasing. And yet, the Trump administration says marijuana is a gateway drug to opioids…
4. Arrest Rates
Obviously with marijuana becoming legal, people are being arrested less for it. But the numbers are still staggering. While data from more recent years is not available, arrests cut in half in Colorado from 2012 to 2014 thanks to legalization, and they dropped 98 percent in the year after Washington legalized marijuana. The decreased arrests also mean police departments are saving money to focus on more important areas. Washington state spent $200 million enforcing marijuana laws from 2000 to 2010, meaning their police departments could be saving as much as $20 million to focus on other crimes.
One of the classic arguments against marijuana legalization is that it will lead to more crime. Not only has that not happened, but the opposite is actually taking place. States with legalized marijuana have seen a decrease in crime rates since enacting their laws. Now, it can’t be 100 percent proven that this is due to cannabis legalization, but it certainly shows that it doesn’t lead to more crime.
Won’t anyone think about the children, cry millions of anti-marijuana advocates! Well, it turns out people are. Teenage use of marijuana is at a 20-year low despite cannabis legalization, and that is true in legalized states as well. In fact, a study found that Oregon teenagers actually perceive marijuana use worse now than they did before legalization.
7. Real Estate
Did you know marijuana can help the real estate market? It’s true. Home prices in Colorado have gone up 6.4 percent in areas where recreational marijuana sales are legal, and that number goes over 8 percent if the home is within 0.1 miles of a dispensary.
When a state legalizes marijuana, that attracts people who live in states where it’s illegal. In 2015, Colorado set a record for most tourists at 77.1 million. Those tourists spent $19 billion while in the state. That’s a 31 percent increase in tourism in Colorado compared to rates before the 2009 recession, while the national average is only 16 percent.
9. Economic Driver
Earlier this year, U.S. News and World Report ranked Colorado as the number one state economy in the United States. Certainly the massive influx of tourists, new jobs created by the marijuana industry, increased real estate prices and all the other effects from cannabis helped contribute to this ranking.
10. The Future
Perhaps the biggest “effect” of marijuana legalization is about the future. Marijuana sales are increasing across the board, meaning more tax revenue. More and more jobs are being created. More and more states are legalizing the drug. The industry is a strong area of growth for the country, at a time where manufacturing is projected to lose over 800,000 jobs by 2020. Simply by existing, the marijuana industry is offering an outlet for these states to recoup their losses that will occur in other areas of the economy.