We as advocates of marijuana law reforms have never been in a better position than we are today to further our cause. Prior to states like Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and others, legalizing and regulating marijuana, there was very little data to support our arguments to end marijuana prohibition. But, things have changed.
So, is the legalization and regulation of marijuana working? Of course it is, but we must be able to articulate why it’s working to be successful in our efforts. We can start by looking at some of the data regarding the impact marijuana legalization is having on public health and safety. Study after study published by the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, the National Academies of Sciences, the Centers for Disease Control, the Journal of Adolescent Health and the American Journal of Public Health are providing us with all the information we need to make fact-based, data-driven arguments in support of ending marijuana prohibition.
Regardless if you’re looking at state-level data related to crime, teen access and use or the decline in opioid use, hospitalizations and overdose, the legalization and regulation of marijuana is having a positive impact. And this is no longer our opinion; it’s fact, backed by legitimate research and data. The information is there. We no longer have to speculate about the potential impacts marijuana legalization will have on public health and safety, and other areas of concern. We can now depend on facts and data to further our efforts to end marijuana prohibition.
Touting the economic benefits of legalization such as tax revenues and job creation can also be helpful in our push to end marijuana prohibition. To date, there have been between 125,000 and 160,000 full-time jobscreated as a result of the legalization and regulation of marijuana. This includes those who work directly with the plant (e.g., cultivation, bud tenders, infused products) as well as ancillary businesses such as packaging, gardening supplies and lighting companies. Regarding tax revenues, Nevada’s regulated adult-use program generated over $55 million within the first ten months of its roll out. While Colorado’s pulled in more than $245 million in tax revenue for 2017.
If you’re working to advance marijuana law reform efforts on the local, state or federal level, these studies can be used to persuade opponents of legalization that ending marijuana prohibition is a step in the right direction, or at the very least, neutralize their prohibitionist rhetoric. Am I suggesting there’s no need to continue to closely monitor the impact marijuana legalization is having on public health and safety? Absolutely not.
With only a handful of states enacting laws to legalize and regulate adult-use marijuana, the jury is certainly still out on whether or not marijuana can be regulated in a way that’s safe and productive for society, so I expect a healthy and thoughtful debate around the issue for years to come. However, since Congress approved the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937, we as advocates of marijuana law reforms have never had access to more fact-based evidence supporting our longstanding argument that ending marijuana prohibition is not only good public policy, it’s the right thing to do.
For more than 45 years NORML chapters have been the driving force behind policy decisions on the local and state level. Have you connected with your local NORML chapter? If there isn’t one in your community, please email NORML Outreach Director Kevin Mahmalji at [email protected] for help with starting your own!