THE WORD ‘CHANGE’ IS ABOUT as worn out in political and social circles as ‘lobbyist,’ but recent elections cycles show that millennials, who make up nearly 25% of the US population, are after far more than just a few nicks to the common order. Adult use of marijuana is now legal in eight states plus Washington, D.C., and public support for legalization has surpassed 50%. Now that most millennials can vote and the new-schoolers have surpassed the minimum age for many political offices, the country is beginning to feel their influence. Marijuana is proving to be a driving factor of change for the millennial generation, and the time has come for the chains to finally be lifted on a plant that can provide everything from clothing to fuel to recreation.
Now, I don’t want to hear that whole ‘you just wanna get high!’ nonsense. I’m not much of a cannabis user these days, but I am a big fan of common sense, sustainability, and the general well-being of society. I’m all ears for legitimate, fact-based arguments against marijuana legalization, but the main ones I’ve heard over the years have to do with false assumptions or come from black market growers who don’t want to lose their income. Let’s talk some facts:
1. 89% of US marijuana law violations in 2015 were for possession only.
That same year, 643,121 people in the United States felt the burn of handcuffs due to pot-related charges. Call me crazy, but I’d argue that the nation’s police, governments, and court systems have better things to do than reprimand people for possessing a plant. With a consistent rate of zero overdoses, that attention should be given to the nation’s rising heroin problem, or maybe helping drinkers find a safe ride home the bar.
2. Colorado’s economy is booming, and marijuana is the fastest growing business sector.
I’m a Denver native, and will readily admit that in many ways my hometown doesn’t look the same as it did back in the eighties and nineties. While Colorado locals love to long for the past, the days before hordes of Californians and mid-westerners descended upon our Bronco-loving, ski-crazed state, it’s hard to argue that we’re not better off for all the growth. We’ve got better infrastructure, the public schools have more money, and Denver is emerging onto the world stage as a modern, tech-savvy, friendly place to be. Crime has also dropped dramatically. Take a guess where a good chunk of that funding is coming from… (Here’s a hint)
3. Legalization dramatically reduces drug enforcement costs, while increasing tax revenue.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance’s status report after the first full year of legalization in Colorado, marijuana arrests dropped over 90%. Given that each arrest costs the state about $300 to adjudicate, the state is saving some serious dough. Recreational marijuana is highly taxed, much like cigarettes, with that money going into city coffers instead of some drug dealer’s pocket.
4. Recreational and medical sales create jobs.
Growers, trimmers, budtenders, sales reps. Just like any industry, it takes the power of people to run these businesses. Instead of flocking to Humboldt County during harvest season to make a quick buck, those working in the retail and medical marijuana industries in states which have legalized have year-round, consistent employment that provides paychecks and boosts the economy.
5. Regulation of growth and sales promotes consumer safety while reducing overall harm.
With regulated sales, consumers know what they are buying and how it was produced. They are making their purchase in a protected environment instead of in a shady parking lot or dealer’s apartment, and don’t have to live in fear of being caught and persecuted. Add to this the fact that marijuana criminalization disproportionately affects youth, people of color, and results in corruption and violence.