Marijuana Goes Mainstream & Society is Better Off
October 22nd, 2015
Policy, Top Story
The number of Americans using marijuana has doubled over the past decade, rising to more than 22 million users representing 44% of respondents, according to a new Gallup poll, which analyzed health surveys sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
A record 58% of Americans also believe that cannabis use should be legal in the U.S., according to the same poll, which is the highest level in 46 years and ties 2013 results.
The polling group predicts that these numbers will continue to increase over the coming years given the patterns of support by age and the ongoing legalization of medical and recreational marijuana in U.S. states. More than 70% of respondents born between 1981 and 1997 believe the drug should be legalized, compared to just 19% of those born before 1935, while senior citizens are alone among age groups in opposing legalization.
The rising support for cannabis legalization may put state and local governments under increasing pressure to ease restrictions on the drug’s use, particularly with nearly half of the population consuming the drug in some way.
The issue of cannabis legalization on a federal level has already come up during presidential debates, while several key states will be voting on the matter in November 2016. In particular, California has a number of initiatives designed to support the legalization of recreational marijuana, which would create the largest market in the world, which some experts believe could approach $10 billion in size.
The issue of federal legalization seems a bit less certain, with leading candidates like Hillary Clinton declining to comment, and many Republicans opposed entirely. However, a federal court’s recent ruling in a DEA harassment case has sent a clear message that the Department of Justice should respect state rights, as directed by House and Senate measures.
Impacts on Society
Many opponents to legalization believe that it would cause widespread chaos in society, but the evidence compiled to date suggests the opposite.
In Philadelphia, police have cited 73% fewer people than they arrested for possessing weed during the same period a year ago after decriminalizing the drug. The reduction in citations has resulted in fewer people having criminal charges on their record, which can make it difficult to find employment and has life-long consequences.
Other states like Colorado that have fully legalized recreational marijuana have reported that fewer teens appear to be using the drug, while a greater number of adults have consumed it. With the rising consumption, the legalization of marijuana has brought in $73.5 million of tax revenue in 2015, which is roughly double the amount collected in 2014. These funds have been diverted to public good projects, such as schools and prevention education programs.
While the legalization of marijuana is still relatively new, there seems to be a limited impact on society when compared to other drugs like tobacco or alcohol.
The recent Gallup poll suggests that cannabis legalization isn’t going away anytime soon and governments may face increased pressure to permit the drug. Based on recent data from state governments, this may not be a bad thing as it helps limit crime, raise tax revenue, and potentially help those in need when it comes to medical marijuana. These trends could lead to the federal government taking greater action over the coming year or two.
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