Cannabis sativa is the most cultivated, used, and trafficked substance in the world, prompting calls for its legalization. Moreover, increased attention from investors and researchers has served to demonstrate the need for the drug to be legalized. The cannabis industry has several benefits, including medical, economic, and psychiatric benefits. Medically, it is used for pain relief, lessens tremors in Parkinson’s disease, treats Glaucoma, and manages weight loss and nausea. Economically, it increases tax revenue, creates jobs and income, and reduces crime and social stigma. In psychiatry, it is used in the treatment of anxiety, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and as an alternative to pharmaceuticals. As of November 2020, several states had legalized the recreational use of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. Between 1919 and 2020, several milestones have been achieved with regard to the legalization of marijuana and the recognition of its numerous medical and recreational benefits.
One of the major medical benefits of the cannabis industry is cannabidiol (CBD) research. CBD is one of the components of marijuana, and the second most prevalent constituent. It is derived from the hemp plant, and it is among the most useful ingredients contained in medical marijuana (Staff). The World Health Organization (WHO) has shown that it has little to no intoxicating properties, and it does not exhibit any effects that indicate the potential for abuse or dependence. The benefits of CBD are numerous: relief of anxiety, insomnia (helps with falling and staying asleep), spasticity, and the treatment of childhood epilepsy syndromes such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) (Fichtner and Moss). CBD is also effective in the treatment of different forms of chronic pain. For instance, it has been used effectively in the treatment of pain and inflammation due to arthritis using animal models.
Medical marijuana has several medical benefits that have been the topics of study for many decades. The use of the drug has increased significantly over the last three decades. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved marijuana for the treatment of only two severe forms of epilepsy, namely Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (Grinspoon). Limited research has been conducted because the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers marijuana a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has no medical benefits. The major use of medical marijuana is for chronic pain control. In that regard, it can help treat conditions that include arthritis, migraines, fibromyalgia, and endometriosis (Fichtner and Moss). Moreover, it can minimize the side effects of cancer treatment. Medical marijuana can also be used to ease nerve pain because of its effects on the limbic system, especially in the case of multiple sclerosis (Grinspoon). Medical marijuana relieves pain without inducing the sedation effect. Other medical benefits include the treatment of Glaucoma, the management of nausea and weight loss, treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases, management of ADHD/ADD, and the lessening of tremors in Parkinson’s disease (Grinspoon). Research has shown that medical marijuana is safer than opiates because it is impossible to overdose and its potential to cause addictions is relatively low.
Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 35 states, including Washington. They include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Maine, Illinois, Hawaii, and New Hampshire among others (Grinspoon). In 2018, the FDA approved the cannabidiol Epidiolex for the treatment of epileptic syndromes. Moreover, it has approved dronabinol and nabilone for the treatment of vomiting and nausea due to the effects of chemotherapy (Staff). Medical marijuana can be obtained from two main places: a certified doctor and a dispensary or pharmacy.
The economic benefits of the cannabis industry are numerous: increased tax revenues, the creation of jobs and generation of income, and the reduction of crime and social stigma. The revenue generated from the cannabis industry can be used to build better infrastructure, fund public education and health care, and grow the economy.
Increased Tax Revenue
According to government statistics, any state that has legalized medical marijuana reported an increase in tax revenues after enacting the law. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) (Proposition 64) was passed in 2016 to legalize the use of cannabis in the state of California, and it received a 57% voter approval. It allowed the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes. The law has benefited the economy of the state significantly. Since then, California collects a 15% tax on cannabis sales (Zha). In addition, cultivators also pay varying tax amounts on flowers, trim, and fresh cannabis plant. The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration revealed their tax revenues for the third quarter of 2019: $411.3 million, $98.9, and $335.3 million in excise tax, cultivation tax, and sales tax respectively (Zha). 60% of the surplus revenue after allocations to cannabis regulatory agencies and administrative costs is used in sponsoring public education and public awareness programs on the responsible usage of marijuana. 20% funds environmental protection, and the other 20% goes toward improving law enforcement at the local and state levels (Zha). The state gives $2 million to the UC San Diego’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research every year to conduct studies on the effects of cannabis (Zha). In the state of Colorado, the excess revenue from the cannabis industry was used to fund several programs. For example, $67.8 million went to the construction of public schools and public education (Zha). In Washington, the $314.8 million cannabis revenue went toward providing health insurance to low-income residents through the Medicaid program.
Income and Jobs
The cannabis industry generates income and creates jobs in different fields. A recent study conducted by RCG Economics revealed that the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes has numerous economic benefits as it creates 6,208 jobs and generates $260,732,000 in labor income (Zha). These jobs are in retail and production, marketing, data analysis, law, and health care areas. It is estimated that the industry can create more than 211,000 jobs in the United States (Zha). The potential of the cannabis industry to create jobs is endless because automation has not yet been affected. Therefore, jobs are guaranteed, unlike in the manufacturing industry where people have been replaced with machinery. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor market will grow significantly in the next decade because the cannabis industry will be responsible for a 110% increase in employment opportunities (Zha). The services of lawyers will be in high demand as more people will seek guidance on how to navigate the new laws properly.
Reduced Crime and Social Stigma
The majority of cannabis-related crimes are for possession. For instance, 92% of the 545, 602 people arrested for cannabis related crimes in 2019 were detained for possession. Advocacy organizations have argued that this is a waste of taxpayers money that could be used for more important initiatives (“Industry Overview”). The legalization of marijuana could lower the number of arrests due to possession, and consequently save millions of dollars that could be channeled to the improvement of education and health care. Moreover, it will reduce the social stigma associated with cannabis related crimes because drug convictions will be repealed and cleared (White). Drug records diminish the chances of finding employment, and primarily affect the African-American and Latino communities.
Marijuana is widely used in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Research has shown that it is an effective treatment that helps with sexual dysfunction, insomnia and headaches (Fichtner and Moss). It releases endorphins that calm and relaxes the body. A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders revealed that cannabis reduces the levels of depression reported by people (White). However, the relief is short-term as use over prolonged periods can increase depression. Marijuana stimulates the brain to release endorphins that produce feelings of overall well-being in the body (Fichtner and Moss). Cannabis can also be applied in the treatment of PTSD as it provides relief for insomnia and nightmares. Many healthcare providers use it because it provides an effective alternative to pharmaceuticals.
Current Law and Legalization
Currently, several states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. For instance, 15 states and Washington, D.C. allow the use of marijuana for recreation while 35 states and Washington D.C. have legalized medical marijuana (“Industry Overview”). The consumption of marijuana in the United States has increased significantly in the last two decades. As of November 2020, 33.9% and 68.7% of Americans could access marijuana for recreational and medical purposes respectively (Ballotpedia).
|Timeline and process of recreational marijuana legalization|
|State||Year legalized||Process used||Vote|
Table 1: timeline for marijuana legalization (Ballotpedia).
States such as Indiana, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Kentucky do not allow any use of CBD products. The marijuana issue has attracted increased attention as usage has increased significantly. Proponents argue that it increases revenues for state and local governments, improves safety via regulation, and gives law enforcement officers time to focus on more serious crimes (“Industry Overview”). On the contrary, opponents argue that marijuana is a gateway drug that has serious health effects because of its addictive nature.
|Support for marijuana legalization by age bracket, 1969 to 2019 (selected years)|
|Year||All adults||18 to 34||35 to 49||50 to 64||65 and older|
|2019 source: Gallup.com, “U.S. Support for Legal Marijuana Steady in Past Year,” October 23, 2019. Previous year data is available here|
Table 2: support for marijuana legalization by age bracket (Ballotpedia).
|Support for marijuana legalization by political party affiliation, 2019|
|Support for legalization||73%||40%||64%||60%|
|Opposition to legalization||20%||52%||31%||33%|
|Source: Quinnipiac University, “U.S. Voters Oppose Trump Emergency Powers on Wall 2-1 Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds,” March 6, 2019|
Table 3: support for marijuana legalization by party affiliation (Ballotpedia).
Calls for the prohibition of marijuana were numerous between 1919 and 1933. Increased consumption due to alcohol prohibition led to widespread opposition because advocacy groups linked it to crime and violence. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics was founded in 1930, and within a year of its establishment, 29 states outlawed marijuana (Hudak 34). The Uniform State Narcotic Act of 1932, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, and the Narcotics Control Act of 1956 were enacted to regulate the marijuana industry (Hudak 35). The 1960s Counter-Culture Movement led to increased use as several studies concluded that marijuana consumption did not induce violence. The Drug Enforcement Agency was created in 1973 amidst calls for stricter regulations. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 raised penalties for marijuana offenses to curb increased usage (Hudak 38). President George W. Bush declared a new “War on Drugs” in 1989. In 1996, California legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes and set a precedent for other states (Hudak 47). Between 1996 and 2020, several states have passed laws to allow the use of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. For instance, in 2018, Vermont became the first state to legalize the use of marijuana for recreational purposes.
The cannabis industry has grown immensely in the last three decades due to the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes in many states. Medically, it is used to relief pain, lessen tremors in Parkinson’s disease, treat Glaucoma, and manage weight loss and nausea. Economically, it increases tax revenue, creates jobs and income, and reduces crime and social stigma. In psychiatry, it is used in the treatment of anxiety, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 15 states and Washington, D.C. allow the use of marijuana for recreation purposes, while 35 states and Washington D.C. have legalized medical marijuana. States such as Indiana, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Kentucky do not allow any use of CBD products.
Ballotpedia. Marijuana Laws in the United States.
Fichtner, Christopher G, and Howard Moss. “Medical Marijuana and Mental Health: Cannabis Use in Psychiatric Practice.” Psychiatric Times, vol. 34, no. 5, 2017.
Grinspoon, Peter. “Medical Marijuana.” Harvard Health Publishing, 2018.
Hudak, John. Marijuana: A Short History. Brookings Institution Press, 2016.
“Industry Overview.” Medical Marijuana, Inc. Web.
Staff. “50 Surprising Benefits of Cannabis.” Green Flower, 2020.
White, Deborah. “Pros and Cons of Legalizing Marijuana in the U.S.” ThoughtCo, 2020. Web.
Zha, Charles. “High Economy: Impacts of Marijuana Legalization on the US Economy.” The Economics Review, 2020.