Update: This blog was originally published on September 19, 2016. Since then, North Dakota and West Virginia have legalized marijuana for medicinal use.
For years it lurked in the dark, ready to steal the soul of all who dared ingest the fumes of it’s burning flower. Made by the devil himself, cannabis is one of the worst things to be found in nature. It is simply a societal destructor.
Or at least that’s what we’ve been led to believe.
Cannabis has long been an idol for subcultures, and has the power to bring together people of all races, creeds and colors for the mutual pleasure of the “high.” From movies to music to literature, cannabis and the use of it has become a culture all to its own, and is rapidly moving its culture status from “sub” to “mainstream.” It’s become more and more common for people to use, or at the very least they closely know someone who uses. People are becoming more and more open about their usage as it becomes more “acceptable” in todays society.
Perceptions and attitudes towards cannabis and its legality for both medicinal and recreational purposes are rapidly shifting from anti or indifferent, to a more pro-cannabis stance. In a survey conducted by Fox News in 2013, 85% of Americans believe that adults should be allowed to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. A 2013 Gallup poll found that 58% of Americans felt marijuana should be allowed recreationally. And two surveys done by the Pew Research Center in 2014 revealed that 69% of Americans believe alcohol to be more harmful than marijuana, and 75% of Americans believe that marijuana becoming classified as legal by the federal government is simply inevitable.
Currently just 12 states in the U.S. have all forms of cannabis listed as illegal, and that number continues to shrink. Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia have completely legalized weed. Only Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Texas, West Virginia, Wyoming and the Dakotas are still holding on to the notion that legalization is not progressive.
But when you look at the data from the states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes, the evidence shows a resounding amount of progress for the health of that state.
In the first two months of legalized marijuana sales, Colorado collected $6.17 million in taxes (annual combined state and federal costs to continue prohibition of marijuana is $17.4 billion). Research done by University of Georgia scientists Ashley and W. David Bradford, published in the journal Health Affairs, found significant drops in prescriptions written for pharmaceuticals and prescription drug abuse in states with medical marijuana. According to their study, which began in 2013, doctors in medical marijuana states wrote 265 fewer prescriptions for antidepressants, 486 fewer for seizure medications, 541 fewer for anti-nausea, 562 for anti-anxiety, and a whopping 1,826 fewer for painkillers. Colorado, as well as the other legalized states, has seen significant drops in their crime rate. A study released by the Drug Policy Alliance found that in the first 11 months of 2014 (when Colorado legalized cannabis use), the violent crime rate fell by 2.2%. In that same time frame, the capital city of Denver saw a 9.5% drop in burglaries and an 8.9% drop in property crimes overall.
There are high hopes for cannabis users and the business and culture of cannabis in today’s American society. Marijuana has the ability to light up our society. It has the potential to be the natural cure-all for many of the woes found in today’s society. No longer is marijuana going to be looked down upon, or only used by the “silly stoner” laughed at in movies. It’s going to be respected for what it is and all the many benefits it can provide to us, if only we accept it.