Culture / Economy / Healthcare

The Marijuana Revolution

Recently the legalization of marijuana made traction in two states: New York legalized medical marijuana and Washington issued business licenses to jumpstart the sale of recreational marijuana.

On July 9, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act and New York became the 23rd state along with the District of Columbia to legalize medical marijuana. The program in New York is intended to be “patient-centric”, and “one of the most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs in the country.” Medical marijuana can be recommended for HIV, AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, and conditions characterized by severe and persistent muscles spasms. There are many forms of medical marijuana, several states restrict use to pills or oils, prohibiting forms that can be smoked.

Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are likely next; each state is currently in the process of rolling out legislation. Several states that have not legalized medical marijuana have decriminalized medicinal cannabis possession laws. D.C. was added to this list when a marijuana decriminalization law took effect last Thursday, the new law eases punishments for minor marijuana offenses.

Washington is the second state to take legalization a step further to recreational use. On July 8, the Washington State Liquor Control Board issued 25 retail licenses and on Tuesday the first retail sales began. The cannabis is heavily taxed at every step of the production process. 40% of the tax revenue will go into the state’s general fund, the remaining 60% will pay for prevention and drug treatment programs.

Is widespread legalization of marijuana the answer to the troubles facing our economy? It seems a legitimate possibility based upon the success in Colorado. To date, the recreational cannabis market has raked in around $70 million, including $18 million for the state in tax revenues and licensing fees. Nearly 10,000 jobs have been created by the medicinal and recreational marijuana industry in Colorado, creating a small boom in jobs for a state that desperately needed it. More jobs are expected to be added as the industry continues to grow.  In addition, violent crime in Denver was down 1.9% at the beginning of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013. Washington hopes to see similar results. Economists report that nation-wide marijuana legalization could save $7.7 billion per year in expenditures on prohibition enforcement and produce tax revenues of as much as $6.2 billion annually. Imagine what this country could do with $6 billion!

Cannabis has gained momentum in the last decade, with nationwide support now sitting at 58% approval as of 2013. The older population, 65 and older, is more likely to oppose legalization where younger Americans, in general, are much more supportive legalization of marijuana in some capacity. The moral objections are absolutely there, but the economics and public support don’t lie. Cannabis is coming…

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