Last week, another U.S. state legalised recreational marijuana use, making it the fourth state to do so within the last year. While more than 23 states have made medicinal marijuana legal, there is now an increasing number who are turning their attention to also legalise the sale of cannabis and decriminalise use for adults over the age of 21. As this movement gains political momentum, it is no surprise that the pressure is mounting in the UK towards doing the same.
Experts have been speaking in favour of the idea, hoping that other countries worldwide will follow the lead of the United States. Here in the UK, CISTA (Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol) has been at the forefront of the movement, citing the economic, public health, and legal benefits that decriminalization of cannabis would bring.
It does seem to have worked in the U.S., after all.
Colorado was the first state to legalise the sale and recreational use of marijuana back in January of 2014. Since then, the effects have been nothing but positive. According to Colorado Crime Reporting Data, within the first three months, the state saw a nearly 15% drop in the overall crime rate, with a 5.2% decrease in violent crimes. Probably the most impressive fact is that the state has managed to save close to $12 million alone from the removal of criminal penalties for various marijuana-related offenses.
The state made more than $17 million in taxes in the first six months of cannabis sales, with nearly $55 million in tax revenue by the end of the year. The first $40 million went directly to public schools, city infrastructure, and youth substance abuse education programs – all programs that had been suffering in recent years from severe federal and state budget cuts.
While many parts of the U.S. seem to be suffering in the area of job creation, Colorado is thriving. The state saw a dramatic decrease in unemployment, with nearly 2,000 jobs created in the first few months. As more shops open, this number continues to increase.
Other states, Washington, Alaska and Oregon, have eagerly followed in the footsteps of Colorado. While there still isn’t much data on legalisation has affected the economy and culture, the results seem promising. Other states such as Arizona, Nevada, and California, the eighth largest economy in the world, could be next on the legalisation train.
How can we interpret these trends for use in our own yard? Let’s take a closer look at the facts. Currently, the UK spends more than £361 million each year to police cannabis users. With polls indicating somewhere around half of UK voters in support of legalisation, this seems like quite a bit of money to spend on something that is becoming more and more culturally acceptable.
Additionally, according to the Institute for Social and Economic Research, close to £900 million could be earned in tax revenue each year through a regulated cannabis market. Clearly, this money could go towards much needed funding of government programs and improvement in infrastructure – just like we have seen in Colorado.
So, what could this mean if legalisation fever crossed the pond? It seems as if increased revenue, increased savings, and the likelihood of a sharp decrease in crime are the natural consequences. Perhaps now is the right time to put down our arms in the war against weed and embrace all the positive possibilities in this season of change.
Helpfuljosh writes about Cannabis and legislation and is a volunteer at the growers help growers community of ¨I love growing Marijuana¨.