In only a few years, the nationwide legalization of marijuana in the United States has quickly evolved from a controversial subject with narrow support to a seemingly inevitable event. According to recent Pew and Gallup polls, between 53-58% of Americans now support marijuana legalization, which is a major turning point for the future legal status of the perennial herb.[1.http://www.thestonerscookbook.com/article/2015/10/26/new-gallup-poll-shows-the-majority-of-americans-want-weed-legalized-again/.], [2. Majority of American support legalizing marijuana,” April 15, 2015, https://www.rt.com/usa/249765-majority-americans-marijuana-legalization/.]
So what happened in the last few years that gave cannabis such a huge surge in support? The ineffectiveness of the “war on drugs” to reduce crime and drug addiction has certainly played a major role in helping to dispel harmful taboos. People are beginning to see the travesty of ruining people’s lives over this safe and medicinal plant. Thanks to pioneering states like Colorado, we can move past the fear-mongering and hypothetical “what ifs” for the first time to see the real effects of marijuana legalization. Here are five popular myths about marijuana legalization that Colorado proves wrong:
1. Legalizing marijuana will increase the number of teens smoking pot.
According to the statistics, no. Even as states like Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana in recent years, marijuana use among teenagers continues to decline across the US. In Colorado, teenage marijuana use is down 2 percent, putting it on par with the national average. It’s easy to understand why people might think that legalization could lead to more teens smoking — as marijuana becomes more readily accessible for adults, it follows reason that it would trickle down to underage teenagers. Of course, naive parents might deny it, but the reality is that teens have historically had relatively easy access to cannabis; their reasons for trying it are often based more on factors like upbringing and social pressures than on the plant’s legal status.
2. Legalizing recreational drugs like marijuana will lead to more crime.
According to the data, marijuana legalization has had a noticeable effect on crime, but not in the way critics expected. Across Colorado, the number of murders, rapes and robberies are all falling. As expected, marijuana legalization has led to a huge decrease in the number of marijuana-related arrests, saving the state millions of dollars in booking and jailing costs. While there still exists an illegal black market for cannabis, legalization has surely not been good for under-the-table business. Colorado for one is taking steps to lower taxes on cannabis sales, making legal marijuana more competitive with the black market. At the least, legalization has not led to an increase in crime like some had said it would, and at the most, a correlation exists between legalization and lower crime rates.
3. Marijuana legalization won’t really help the economy.
The revenue from retail marijuana sales in Colorado has been staggering. An estimated 82 million dollars in marijuana tax revenues and fees is expected to be collected in 2015, and a large portion of that will go to Colorado’s schools.[3. “Colo. pot users helping build schools with tax dollars,” February 17, 2015, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/02/17/colorado-marijuana-revenues/23565543/.] Beyond giving the state’s general fund and schools a much-needed boost, the marijuana industry in Colorado has created over 10,000 new jobs, and these trends are expected to increase in coming years.[4. “Colorado’s Marijuana Legalization Creates 10,000 New Jobs,” May 23, 2014, http://naturalsociety.com/colorados-marijuana-legalization-creates-10000-new-jobs/.] In a time when economic instability, budget deficits, and unemployment are looming concerns, the economic benefits of marijuana legalization look incredibly appealing.
4. Marijuana legalization won’t have an effect on other drugs’ being legalized.
We hope not! In a recent statement from Virgin founder Richard Branson, the businessman alleged that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has plans to urge governments across the world to end the “war on drugs” and make drug use and abuse a health issue rather than a criminal one. The UN office’s leaked report describes in great detail why criminalization of drug use “has contributed to public health problems and induced negative consequences for safety, security, and human rights.” Work like this shows that legalizing substances like marijuana is not about making it easy to get high, it’s about choosing what’s right for society based on scientific evidence rather than fear.