Medical cannabis has already helped scores of patients achieve safe and effective pain relief. While pot remains illegal at the federal level, House Representative Earl Blumenauer recently introduced H.R. 420, a bill that, if passed, would regulate marijuana like alcohol, making it legal for adult use.
Legalizing cannabis wouldn’t only free up prison space and allow law enforcement to focus on more dangerous criminals. Treating marijuana like booze would improve everything from the economy to the environment. We should encourage lawmakers to free the weed, and here’s why.
1. Saving Trees
Cannabis’ cousin plant, hemp, recently gained the green light in terms of becoming legal for industrial purposes. Currently, the U.S. cuts down billions of trees per year to make paper.
Trees can take decades to fully mature and grow, while hemp grows quickly with an approximately six month seed-to-harvest rate. Additionally, anyone standing downwind from a traditional wood-based paper mill gets a big whiff of nausea-inducing chemicals. Hemp paper needs only hydrogen peroxide to process, cutting pollution, saving trees and delighting those who live near stinky factories.
Even though the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp cultivation, overzealous police raids make many farmers hesitant to plant it. Should the U.S. legalize cannabis, farmers could grow hemp free from the fear of cops breaking down their doors.
2. Cutting Gang Violence
A recent study indicated a significant decrease in violent crime along states which have legalized cannabis. Just as the prohibition of alcohol once created the need for black market booze runners, the current illegal status of marijuana prompts cartels to transport the plant by any means necessary, including the taking of innocent life.
Legalizing cannabis would decrease gang violence and protect public safety. Pot consumers prefer purchasing legal marijuana because they know exactly what they’re buying. Dealers often lace street weed with dangerous spice, a form of synthetic cannabis linked to several deaths.
3. Solving the Opioid Crisis
Over 2 million Americans now suffer addiction to opiate-based medications due to misleading claims by pharmaceutical manufacturers regarding the safety of drugs like Oxycontin. Cannabis serves a double duty in defeating the opioid crisis — marijuana offers safe, natural pain relief while also minimizing the withdrawal symptoms experienced by those weaning themselves off medications like Oxycodone or Vicodin.
States with legal medical or recreational cannabis decrease the rate of opioid overdoses by approximately 35 percent. Furthermore, a full 92 percent of patients prefer marijuana to opioids for pain relief. While opiate-based medications carry a host of side effects, the only pitfall pot users need worry about is an inability to operate machinery (and perhaps slightly increased tendencies to order pizza delivery).
Opponents of legal marijuana like former Attorney General Jeff Sessions argue that legalizing cannabis will lead to more people transitioning to hardcore drugs such as crystal meth. However, the vast majority of legal and illegal pot smokers alike never transition to using more dangerous substances. The gateway theory hasn’t definitively been proven inaccurate, but the majority of the evidence from states with legal cannabis suggests that legal pot may indeed create a way out of opioid addiction rather than pushing people toward harder drugs.
Pot poses a minimal physical addiction risk, and to date, no one has died of an overdose of bud. Legalizing marijuana would save lives.
4. Creating Good Jobs
Good jobs remain hard to find as the once vibrant American manufacturing industry has adopted automated technology to replace some well-paid workers. According to New Frontier Data, the cannabis industry stands poised to add a quarter of a million new jobs. Many careers in the marijuana industry pay comparatively well and allow even those with disabilities to find meaningful work
Chefs who create delectable marijuana-laced edibles can potentially earn salaries near the six-figure range, as can marijuana quality control technicians and dispensary managers. Master growers and extractors can bring home annual pay of nearly a quarter of a million bucks.
Even those who simply enjoy working with people can earn a good living working customer service as dispensary checkout clerks. Since many medical marijuana users can no longer drive, and because recreational users cannot get behind the wheel while high, a serious need for delivery drivers exists, too. Imagine a world where you could have a half of Blue Dream delivered to your doorstep as easily as requesting an Uber!
5. Boosting the Economy Overall
Not only would legal cannabis benefit job seekers, it would also provide a much-needed boost to the overall economy. In Denver, for example, tax revenue raised from marijuana sales significantly funded aid to help the homeless and those in danger of losing housing. As soaring rent prices have plagued low income residents of the city, pot sales will continue to provide solutions for those in need.
America’s infrastructure dearly needs renovation, and tax dollars from marijuana could rebuild roads and bridges while creating jobs in the process. Tax revenue raised from legal pot sales could fund depleted FEMA reserves and help victims of recent wildfires and floods. Many American teachers can no longer support their families on their educator salaries alone, so legal bud could improve the woeful state of education and provide school districts money for raising teacher pay.
Progress Toward Legalization
To date, half the states in the U.S. have legalized marijuana for either medical or recreational purposes. Though the current administration set some initial roadblocks to cannabis legalization, Trump’s signing of the Farm Bill approving industrial hemp offers a glimmer of hope that politicians opposed to freeing the weed can compromise their personal views for the benefit of the American people. Considering the myriad of societal ills legal pot addresses, the U.S. should kick reefer madness to the curb and embrace this incredible gift from nature.