Sat, June 24, 2017 14:00
In terms of legalising both medicinal and recreational cannabis, the US is well ahead of the UK in many states, but what affect has it had on their economy, sociology and justice system? With so many causes backing the movement for change in the UK, looking at the impact legalisation has had elsewhere is important for judging how to regulate the industry, should those in power decide that the UK could benefit from decriminalising and making cannabis readily available.
Currently there are eight US states where US citizens can legally smoke marijuana; Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Whilst recreational use of cannabis is legal in these states there are a few limitations. In many instances residents are only allowed to carry up to an ounce of consumable weed, whilst in some states locals can grow their own cannabis plants.
Colorado was one of the first states to legalise recreational marijuana back in 2012 and according to public records there are now over 400 marijuana retail sites and more than 500 medical dispensaries, a significant figure across the whole state. But what impact has it had?
Teen marijuana use is unchanged
This is an important finding as one of the key concerns about legalising cannabis is that it would encourage more of the younger generation to take it up. A survey taken before legalisation in 2009 found that around one in five high school students smoked cannabis, and so far the statistics show that fears of this rising were unfounded.
Arrests have fallen
Unsurprisingly arrests for possession, cultivation and distribution of marijuana have fallen. For the most part, the figures indicate that residents are happy to adhere to the limitations put in place and it’s a move that’s freed up a significant amount of police time and budget. Between 2012 and 2014, arrests actually fell by almost 50% across Colorado.
Generating revenue in tax
Through taxation on recreational cannabis, Colorado alone has generated a huge $50 million through sales. The implemented tax was designed to ensure that marijuana legislation paid for itself and that some of the total sum can also be spent on improving police training and funding educational programmes for teens.
Whether it’s legal or not, statistics have proven that people will use cannabis. Through legalisation, Colorado now has greater control over what people use and what they learn about marijuana. Every plant for sale must be tagged so the state can keep track of it and all products are required to be tested for potency, giving consumers more information about what they are buying.