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The fascinating world of cannabis is coming out from the underground.
It's taken a while for us to get from Reefer Madness to legalization initiatives that are currently taking place in parts of America. This is a significant change, and it's one that will affect every taxpayer in the United States.
There's a lot of controversy and speculation surrounding how cannabis culture will change after legalization. With many states already taking legalization initiatives, we are finally able to start gathering data that turns our speculation into scientific predictions about the societal effect of legal weed.
Cannabis culture will change after legalization whether you like it or not. While there is still a lot more room for research, it is clear that the legalization of weed won't just affect cannabis culture—it will impact all culture.
Public Perception of Marijuana
A lot has changed since the era of Reefer Madness when the word "pot" was synonymous with "murder weapon."
Then, the hippies earned pot the reputation of being a motivation killer. Even that, though, is changing since several states have begun legalization initiatives.
We can only speculate, but it appears as though the stigma against marijuana is disappearing.
In a study by Pew Research Center, data showed that the once stark partisan divide on whether or not weed should be legal is diminishing. This suggests that people of all political stripes are becoming more open to the full legalization of marijuana. This suggests that people of all political stripes are becoming more open to the full legalization of marijuana.
According to Forbes, in states where weed is legal, it's generally considered socially acceptable to microdose marijuana throughout the day. That means that pot is, in a way, becoming more normalized than drinking alcohol. This insight makes me wonder about the kinds of changes that will occur in the workplace when weed is legal.
In states with legalized, recreational marijuana, dispensaries are increasingly accessible, and cannabis consumption in small towns and suburbs in California have, in the last year, increased by six percent and nine percent respectively.
More than half of the cannabis consumers in California are parents, which is a surprising stat considering that society has traditionally viewed parents who consumed cannabis as irresponsible and negligent. When weed is legal, parents who smoke pot won't have to worry about their children being put into foster care.
The United States is famous for accommodating one-third of the world's prison inmates. The statistics also prove that many of these criminals are non-violent offenders.
According to ACLU, data showed that, between 2001 and 2010, 8.2 million people were incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses. Of those arrests, 88 percent of them were for possession only.
Furthermore, there is a clear racial bias in pot arrests. Equal numbers of every race smoke weed, but you are 3.73 times more likely to get arrested for weed possession if you're black, begging the question: Is the War on Drugs racist? The result of this is that it has been harder for many smart and talented black pot smokers to get jobs, education, and even health insurance.
While the full legalization of cannabis might not cause the immediate release of millions of inmates, it will happen, and prisons will end up with a lot more free space as a result of legalization. Since the illegal marijuana market also causes other crimes, such as murder and robberies, we can also expect to see a reduction in these stats as well.
A 2018 study published in the Economic Journal found that medical marijuana laws have led to less violent crime in the US, especially in areas within 350 kilometers of the border with Mexico.
Of course, we can assume that legalized, recreational marijuana will lead to less paranoia when smoking pot since smokers of legal age don't have to worry about getting arrested over it.
The legalization of weed will open up a lot of job opportunities that are currently either illegal or simply non-existent.
When the entire United States can enjoy legalized, recreational marijuana on a federal scale, there will be a host of new jobs available to the adult public.
Naturally, I don't mean that everyone will be able to become a drug dealer. Sure, they could if they wanted to, but the full legalization of marijuana will open up many jobs for lots of skilled and unskilled work.
As cannabis production increases, there will be a higher demand for growers and customer service representatives. The cannabis business will also require a new infrastructure of support services; specialized accountants, insurance agents, product inspectors, and lawyers will be in high demand.
Competitive Marijuana Markets
Cannabis and dispensaries are going to become just as corporate as coffee and cafés. We already see this in states with legalized, recreational marijuana.
We will get a lot more information with our weed when it's sold legally in dispensaries. When pot is legal on a federal level, we'll get to pay for it with our credit cards.
Moreover, as marijuana markets expand, retailers will have to compete with each other by branding their product to make it outshine the next shop's stock.
Dispensaries will have to compete to provide the best service, information, and deals. Retailers will have to do their homework and make sure they know how each strain varies from the next, and they will have to be transparent about it. Dispensaries will have to earn the trust of their customers.
Since legal weed is still rare in the United States, people are excited to visit any old dispensary. In the future though, when weed legalization is made federal, the novelty will wear off, and cannabis will likely be like any other product on the market.
The same goes for the packaging, which will have to include realistic promises, honest disclaimers, and unique artwork.
With an absence of regulations to the contrary, one can see companies and businesses offering free marijuana as a promotion or incentive. (i.e., "Buy a bong and get a free dime bag.")
Every cannabis business will need to make their product better than everyone else's, and this will result in newer, higher quality strains.
Everyone knows that drug dealers make a lot of money. That wealth will be distributed to many different people and services when marijuana markets are regulated.
Even though marijuana is legal in just a limited number of states, the cannabis business is already a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. According to Forbes, Washington State, for example, has made over a billion dollars in weed sales, and California is expected to pass five billion dollars in sales by the end of 2018.
The War on Drugs costs American taxpayers more than $58 billion every year. When marijuana is legalized, that cost will gradually be replenished by the cannabis business, which will rake in billions of dollars from sales and income tax every year.
In California, for example, there is a 15 percent statewide tax on recreational and medical cannabis products, which doesn't include locally imposed taxes and fees.
These tax regulations, which would make the cost of marijuana higher than people pay in illegal marijuana markets, might temporarily deter people from buying weed legally. However, that won't last long; As weed dispensaries keep popping up, legal weed will become more accessible than illegal pot, and the competition should keep the cost relatively low.
The government and weed dispensaries won't be the only ones raking in the fiscal benefits of legal weed. Tourism will boom, and the food, travel, and entertainment sectors will get a lot of business.
The LA Times cites a survey by Strategic Marketing and Research Insights that shows just how popular weed tourism is in Colorado. The study found that 85 percent of the 3,250 surveyed tourists in Colorado said that weed was a "primary motivator" for their trip.
Who knows though? When weed is fully legalized, people won't have to go out of state to indulge in it with a free conscience.
Legalized marijuana's impact on public health is a heavily contested—and speculative—concern. We've already gone over the ways that legalized marijuana could impact incarceration rates, racial bias, and violent crime in the United States.
Legal weed will give more people access to healthcare, education, and work.
Many people view marijuana as a gateway drug to harder drugs, but many people also speculate that reforming marijuana laws could help curb the opioid epidemic in America.
Legalizing cannabis will make users feel more comfortable telling their doctors that they smoke weed, which will help their doctors provide more successful treatment for various health problems.
Interestingly, states with legal recreational and medical marijuana have seen a massive decrease (11 percent) in traffic fatalities, especially between the ages of 25 and 44 years. According to NCBI, this could be because people are drinking less alcohol in states with legal weed.
Before cannabis laws started to relax, many people were concerned that legalization initiatives would cause kids to start smoking at a younger age. Studies suggest that marijuana use among teenagers will stay where it is. A 2017 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that fewer 10th graders reported smoking marijuana within the past year compared to five years ago.
In one hundred years, cannabis culture will be much different than it is today. Society will be a safer place with more job opportunities.
There will be a brief chapter in history books that likens the prohibition of marijuana to that of alcohol in the 1920s, and a higher number of books about cannabis legalization and the positive effects it has had on society as a whole.
Cannabis culture will change after legalization, and so will society as a whole. The legalization of weed seems exciting now, but the novelty will wear off, and the right for adults to smoke weed will be accepted as a given, which will likely curb its appeal to many people who would otherwise enjoy the risk of doing something wrong.