Life After Legal Marijuana

leagalized marijuanaOn January 1, 2014, 40 shops in Colorado opened their doors to the first legal recreational marijuana users.1 On July 8, 2014, a handful of shops in Washington joined them. These two states were the first to explore answers to the question, “What will happen if we legalize marijuana?” Medical marijuana is now legal in 29 states. Recreational use is now legal in eight states and Washington, D.C. So how do these laws affect marijuana use, public health and addiction? How do they affect you and the people you love?

Teens and Drugs

One concern about legalizing marijuana was the effect it would have on teen drug use. The earlier you start using drugs and alcohol, the more likely you are to have addiction problems later in life. Luckily The Washington Post reports that “in both Colorado and Washington, state surveys have shown no significant change in marijuana use among teens since voters passed legalization measures.”2 If you have a teen, this is great news. Even if you don’t, this means the next generation won’t be fighting against even greater risk factors for substance abuse. It means we have a chance to address the overwhelming addiction epidemic without it growing ever bigger behind us.

Crime After Legal Marijuana

Over 40 percent of the current prison population is imprisoned on charge related to drug offenses.USA Today explains, “About 700,000 people are arrested annually on marijuana-related charges…Fully 88% of those arrested in 2014 were arrested for possession of marijuana, often in small amounts. That’s a huge drain on our criminal justice and penal systems, suggesting that there could be substantial taxpayer savings if restrictions on the drug were relaxed or the drug were legalized.”4 While we don’t want to reduce addiction to dollar signs, money does matter. When money isn’t being spent on jails, it can be spent on recovery, education and more instead.

Legalizing marijuana helps reduce arrests and taxpayer drain. It lets law enforcement focus on serious crime. The Washington Post reports that marijuana law enforcement cost Washington $200 million between 2000 and 2010. “In Colorado, marijuana arrests fell by nearly half from 2012 to 2014,” the report says.“Marijuana possession charges in Washington state fell by a more dramatic 98 percent between 2012 and 2013. Alaska, Oregon and D.C. show similar declines.”2 This means savings for the general public. It also means people who use marijuana are more likely to receive help than punishment if problems do arise.

Legal Marijuana’s Effects on the Economy

Legalizing marijuana has done more than save money. It has actively created income. Business Insider reports: “The North American marijuana market posted $6.7 billion in revenue in 2016, up 30% from the year before…Arcview projects sales will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 25% through 2021, when the North American market is expected to top $20.2 billion.”5 This booming business creates jobs. Marijuana sales can now be taxed. That money can go back into education programs, efforts to fight addiction and more.

Public Opinion and Life After Legal Marijuana

One of the biggest changes to life after legal marijuana is the change in public opinion. Addiction and drug use have associated stigma. This stigma often keeps people from speaking up, asking for help or accessing the resources they need. Now that marijuana is legal, according to CBS News, “69 percent [of those surveyed] think that drug dependence and addiction should be treated as medical and/or mental health problems rather than a criminal offense.”6 When you can worry about your health rather than about judgment from friends, family or the public at large, you can ask for the help you need.

Accessing Addiction Treatment

You can get the help and support you need. Marijuana addiction, alcoholism and other substance abuse issues are serious concerns. They are serious, but they are also treatable. You can find hope, freedom and health. You can find recovery. Reach out to us at The Oaks to learn more about what we offer and how we can help.

1 Healy, J. “Up Early and in Line for a Marijuana Milestone in Colorado.” The New York Times. 1 Jan. 2014. Accessed 10 Dec. 2017.

2 Ingraham, Christopher. “Here’s How Legal Pot Changed Colorado and Washington.” The Washington Post. 13 Oct. 2016. Accessed 10 Dec. 2017.

3Offenses.” Federal Bureau of Prisons. 28 Oct. 2017. Accessed 10 Dec. 2017.

4 Smith, Austin. “4 Marijuana Statistics That Will Blow You Away.” USA Today. 17 May 2016. Accessed 10 Dec. 2017.

5 Robinson, Melia. “The Legal Weed Market Is Growing as Fast as Broadband Internet in the 2000s.” Business Insider. 3 Jan. 2017. Accessed 10 Dec. 2017.

6 De Pinto, Jennifer, et al. “Marijuana Legalization Support at All-Time High.” CBS News. 20 Apr. 2017. Accessed 12 Dec. 2017.