More than half of US adults, over 128 million people, have tried marijuana, despite it being an illegal drug under federal law. Nearly 600,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession annually – more than one person per minute. Public support for legalizing marijuana went from 12% in 1969 to 66% today. Recreational marijuana, also known as adult-use marijuana, was first legalized in Colorado and Washington in 2012.
Proponents of legalizing recreational marijuana say it will add billions to the economy, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, free up scarce police resources, and stop the huge racial disparities in marijuana enforcement. They contend that regulating marijuana will lower street crime, take business away from the drug cartels, and make marijuana use safer through required testing, labeling, and child-proof packaging. They say marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, and that adults should have a right to use it if they wish.
Opponents of legalizing recreational marijuana say it will increase teen use and lead to more medical emergencies including traffic deaths from driving while high. They contend that revenue from legalization falls far short of the costs in increased hospital visits, addiction treatment, environmental damage, crime, workplace accidents, and lost productivity. They say that marijuana use harms the user physically and mentally, and that its use should be strongly discouraged, not legalized. Read more background…
Pro & Con Arguments
Marijuana legalization boosts the economy.
The marijuana industry (adult-use and medical) in the United States could exceed $24 billion in revenue by 2025. For every $1.00 spent in the marijuana industry, between $2.13 and $2.40 in economic activity is generated. Tourism, banking, food, real estate, construction, and transportation are a few of the industries that benefit from legal marijuana.
The legal marijuana industry generated $7.2 billion in economic activity in 2016, and added millions of dollars in federal taxes paid by cannabis businesses. One study on adult-use marijuana in Nevada projected $7.5 billion in economic activity over the first seven years of legalization, including $1.7 billion in labor income. A study by the University of California Agricultural Issues Center estimated that the legal marijuana market in California could generate $5 billion annually.
In Colorado, marijuana brings in three times more tax revenue than alcohol. The state raised $78 million in the first fiscal year after starting retail sales, and $129 million the second fiscal year. Washington collected a total of $220 million in tax revenues in its second fiscal year of sales.
Legalizing marijuana results in decreased teen marijuana use.
Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine found that “the rates of marijuana use by young people are falling despite the fact more US states are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana use and the number of adults using the drug has increased.” Marijuana use among 8th graders in Washington state decreased following legalization in 2012, from 9.8 percent to 7.3 percent in 2014/2016, according to a Dec. 2018 report from RAND. A study from the Centers for Disease Control