The Pros and Cons of Marijuana Legalization

Plans are afoot to legalize recreational marijuana in Minnesota. What can the experience of the 11 states which have already legalized recreational marijuana in some form tell us about the likely consequences?

The Pros

On one side of the ledger are the economic benefits from legalizing an extensive black market.

The Marijuana Policy Group estimates that Minnesota stands to gain at least $1.2 billion taxable sales revenue within first 5 years of marijuana legalization and a creation of 27, 000 jobs directly or indirectly related to marijuana. The market potential is slightly smaller than that of Colorado due to small number of users in Minnesota. Overall, recreational marijuana legalization is estimated to boost Minnesota’s economy by at least $4 billion.

The Cons

But there are negative consequences on the other side of the ledger.

One potential problem stemming from legalization could be increased problematic use among the youth and adults. After examining usage following the enactment of marijuana legalization in 2012 to 2015, a study from NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Columbia University Mailman School of Health found that:

  • Problematic use among adolescents aged 12 to 17 was 25 percent higher (a small increase from 2.18 to 2.72 percent) compared to states without legal recreational use.
  • Among adults aged 26 or older, past-month marijuana use after legalization was 26 percent higher than in non-recreational states. Past-month frequent use rose by 23 percent, and past-year problematic use increased by 37 percent.

States with legal recreational marijuana have also seen an increase in homelessness. Colorado has additionally faced;

  • Increased arrests for black market operations between 2014 and 2016 due to a boom in illegal marijuana cultivation. Sometimes violent criminals export what they grow.
  • Abundance of high potency dope; average joint in Colorado contains 20 milligrams of THC, 10 times the average joint at Woodstock. concentrated products can sometimes be 99% THC.
  • Increase in emergency department visits related to marijuana as well as increase in calls to poison center.
  • Increase in organized crime.
  • Increase in fatalities with cannabinoid drivers.

Marijuana legalization presents many potential problems as well as benefits. As the issue of legalization comes to the fore once more, Minnesota is fortunate that it has the examples of other states to look to.