The voters in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia spoke with their votes this November 4th 2014 and legalized marijuana for recreational use in their state. Joining Colorado and Washington state, Oregon, Alaska and D.C. are set to see their respective recreational marijuana use law become effective at the beginning of 2015. Eighteen states, including both Illinois and Michigan, have legalized medical marijuana use in some form or another. Proponents of legalization feel strongly that this is just the beginning of what they believe will be countrywide federal legalization of marijuana before long.
Why some States embrace pot and others rebuff it
The debate over the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana, for both recreational and medical purposes, has been a societal mainstay for the past two decade. Ever since California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis in 1996, other states have gone back and forth as to whether or not legalization is a good idea.
The embracers of marijuana friendly laws may argue the following:
Job creation and entrepreneurship:As states increasingly allow for the legal sale and distribution of marijuana, retail shops and distribution centers will need to be opened. Advocates argue that entrepreneurs will invest in cities and towns where pot is legal in order to manage the supply and demand of the drug. Further, the businesses will need to be staffed facilitating job creation in the area.
Pain management:Medical marijuana use to relieve pain caused by various diseases is the strongest ethical argument for the drugs legalization. Patients suffering from cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, and multiple sclerosis can be alleviated of some of their pain when ingesting medical marijuana.
Tax revenue:As the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, in 2014 Colorado reported tax revenue of $43.5 million on the sale of marijuana. In August alone the state generated $7.74 million in tax revenue on $66.2 million in sales. Clearly, legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana pays.
Reduce jail population: The overcrowding of many state jails has created budgetary problems all over the country. Many of those spending time behind bars are placed there on minor drug possession charges. Proponents argue that decriminalization of the use and possession of marijuana will reduce the non-violent prison population and free up state budgets.
On the other side of the coin, those against marijuana legalization of any kind may argue:
Easy distribution to minors: With more of the drug being produced in a state, the more likely it is that minors will find a way to access marijuana. Further, legalization may send minors the message that any illegal drug use is ok and state sanctioned.
Encourages crime: Although legalized, the activity of organized crime, gangs, and cartels will increase in a state where marijuana is legal. A legal market for the sale of the drug will only encourage an illegal market for the drug where the drug may be procured more easily and cheaply. Further, violence may spike as crime groups fight over territory.
Addiction: High addiction rates to drugs and alcohol are already costing the United States upwards of $600 billion annually. Costs related to crime, lost work productivity and healthcare are a byproduct of addiction on a society. Marijuana is thought to be a gateway drug to more serious drug and alcohol addictions over a persons lifetime.
Public health: Smoking pot can cause disease of the heart, brain, and lungs. The Obama Administration continues to oppose the legalization of marijuana citing the severe strain it may cause on our nations overall health as well as our healthcare system.
At Brownstone Law, we work specifically on both civil and federal appellate litigation. If you would like more information concerning the laws on medical marijuana in Illinois or Michigan or need help with an appeal, please contact us today.