The Effects of Weed Legalization on Society

TL;DR (3-minute read)

  1. The debate over the legalization of weed is  becoming a pressing issue in today’s society.
  2. The pros of legalizing weed could open the doors to increased economic potential, lower crime rates and incarceration rates, and less black markets and drug rings.
  3. The cons of legalizing weed could also lead to increased harmful teen use of marijuana and an increase of traffic deaths and injury.
  4. Legalization of weed is likely to happen under a Democratic-majority Congress, and its effects are filled with economic & health benefits combined with some daunting potential of side-effects.

Should weed be legalized? This question is being asked across news outlets, Congress floors, and judicial courtrooms everyday and is gaining popularity every day. Over 128 million people in the United States have tried marijuana at least once, and around 66% of people today think it should be legalized. Despite this, 600,000 people get arrested for possession of marijuana, and it affects minorities at an alarming rate. Like any question or debate this controversial, there will pros and cons  on each viewpoint, with the potential economic, health, and crime impacts for each side fueling the debate.

Key Questions to Consider:

  1. What are the pros of weed legalization in society?
  2. What are the cons of weed legalization in society?
(Getty Images)

What Are the Pros of Weed Legalization in Society?

  • Legalization of weed could create massive profits for the United States economy
    • Impact on tax revenue
      • With the legalization of weed, federal and state governments can tax marijuana and use it as another source of revenue. For example, during 2019, Colorado collected over $302 million in taxes and in California they generated around $845.3 million dollars in tax revenue.
    • Income and job opportunities
      • The legalization of weed can create another industry which can create an influx of job and income opportunities. The RCG Economics and Marijuana Policy Group did a study on Nevada’s marijuana industry and they reported that legalizing marijuana would create around 41,000 jobs that could be supported until 2024. In addition, these jobs would generate over $1.7 billion in income.
  • Legalization of weed results in a lower crime rate
    • Obviously, if possession of marijuana becomes legal, then the 600,000 people  arrested every year on this charge would decrease to zero, resulting in less prison living costs and less incarceration.
    • Studies show that in places where marijuana is legalized, crimes due to alcohol and other drugs decrease. The amount of violence caused by marijuana is very minimal compared to other drugs, so if a shift to marijuana is put in place, crime will reduce. For instance, the FBI reported that in Washington, violent crime decreased every year after weed became legalized.
  • Legalization of weed would result in less black markets and money losses for drug rings and cartels
    • If weed is legalized in the United States, people’s desire and demand to buy marijuana through cartels or the black market decreases, which in turn reduces the amount of drugs smuggled or sold in the black market and reduces profits for the organizations that run these drug trades.

What Are the Cons of Weed Legalization on Society?

  • Legalizing weed can result in increased harmful teen use (12-17)
    • In every state where weed is legalized, teens use weed at a rate that is higher than the national average (16.21% of Colorado teens use compared to the national average of 12.29%).
    • Marijuana can be very harmful for this age group since the brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 25. Weed use for this age group can result in harmful side-effects such as impaired memory and motor skills and lack of judgement or reaction time, which can result in teenagers being put in harmful situations leading to injury or death.
  • The legalization of weed results in traffic accidents leading to injury or death increasing
    • Being under the influence of marijuana can result in impaired reaction time and judgement. Pairing this with the already dangerous task of driving results in high rates of accidents, injury, and death.
    • For instance, marijuana-related traffic deaths rose over 62% after the legalization of weed in Colorado.
Highway Patrol officers in California investigate a car crash in Fremont, CA, where several people were killed. Officials say the primary suspect of causing it was under the influence of marijuana. (AP News)

Increasingly Americans are talking about the controversial topic of weed legalization and in addition, they are increasingly coming out in support of legalizing weed. With a Democratic party-led Congress and President paired with majority support by American citizens, weed legalization is likely but the effects that it could have on society are filled with economic hope combined with the daunting potential of side- effects.


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