With so many states choosing to legalize recreational marijuana use, people across the world are asking big questions. In fact, the marijuana industry in the United States is booming. Though still a developing industry, recreational marijuana took in nearly $9 billion in sales last year. It’s estimated that sales will reach $21 billion by 2021.
That’s a lot of money talk, but what about crime? Is the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana actually shown to be beneficial for society? Marijuana, also known as cannabis or pot, has been around since ancient times. It was first used in Asia around 500 BC, and it traveled the globe since then. What does this substance mean for society today? Keep reading to learn more about the potential effects of legalizing marijuana.
The Problem with Criminalization
Have you ever stopped to question why marijuana is illegal in the first place? While it’s medically proven to be no more dangerous than other “soft drugs” like alcohol and tobacco, pot is surrounded by an intimidating stigma. Western civilization has known about marijuana’s medical benefits since the 19th century, and it was even used to treat cholera symptoms.
It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that American’s perspectives about Mary Jane started to shift. This growing mistrust was caused by the influx of Mexican immigrants in the United States after the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Racial prejudices and fears turned Americans against marijuana, something many immigrants brought with them to the land of the free. Finally, weed was banned outright nation-wide in 1937 with the Marihuana Tax Act.
After the ban, tensions only continued to grow. Films like Reefer Madness showed weed as something drug dealers used to lure unsuspecting children. This perspective was everywhere, and it did permanent harm to marijuana’s reputation. Punishments for the use and distribution of marijuana continued to grow until it affected racial minorities and the lower class the hardest.
The ban on marijuana only started to loosen 70 years later. Today, you see these same stereotypes and misconceptions in action across all rungs of society and legislation. Unfortunately, the prohibition of cannabis has done more harm than good. It creates an unnecessary strain on the criminal justice system, unfairly targets minorities, and prevents people across the country from receiving proper medical treatment.
The Results of Legalization
The only way to undo the damage done by the Marijuana Tax Act is to introduce legal medical and marijuana laws back into our nation. Not only do these allow those with debilitating, painful conditions to seek pain-relief treatment, but it also is proven to reduce crime. That’s something we all should stand behind as a society.
States bordering Mexico who legalized medical use of the drug saw a fall in the violent crime rate of 13% on average. This is because local farmers are able to take control of growth and production, rendering the drug cartels unnecessary. The results are even more dramatic with the legalization of recreational cannabis use.
Though recreational weed has only been legalized in the past few years in states like Colorado and Washington, the violent crime rate is lowering steadily. Because police forces are able to focus efforts on other crimes rather than waste time on petty pot charges, they’re much more effective. Legalization of recreational weed also lessens the use of other, often abused substances like alcohol and harder drugs.
The legalization of marijuana has big implications, and the rest of the country should take note. Not only does the introduction of a legal weed industry bring new jobs and industry, but it also makes the United States a safer place to live. If states want to reduce crime, perhaps they should stop looking to the past 70 years for ideas and push forward with the decriminalization of cannabis.