Legal Weed: The Early Evidence

Source: From Prohibition to Progress: A Status Report on Marijuana Legalization, Drug Policy Alliance

The 2018 legislative session is winding down, and it appears that once again, lawmakers will not ask voters to decide whether to make cannabis for personal use legal in the Land of Enchantment.

That’s too bad, because a new report by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) suggests that the reasons to remove criminal penalties for casual marijuana users remain strong.

It’s still early, but with Alaska, Massachusetts, California, Washington, Nevada, Colorado, Maine, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. legalizing, the DPA has cobbled together some statistics that can’t please prohibitionists. The organization found that “preliminary evidence suggests that the effects of legalization have been either positive or neutral.”

Specifically:

* In every jurisdiction where pot has been legalized, arrests “and court filings for the possession, cultivation and distribution of marijuana have plummeted,” freeing police to focus on dangerous crimes.

* “Nationally, and in states that have legalized marijuana, youth marijuana use has remained stable or declined.”

* There is “no clear correlation” between marijuana use and auto-crash risk.

* Revenue from legitimate sales of cannabis products have exceeded expectations. For example, Colorado predicted a yield of $70 million annually, but in the third fiscal year after legalization, generated $194 million in receipts. Similar spikes have been experienced by Washington and Oregon.

* More marijuana, less opioid abuse? There is a correlation between increased access to cannabis and “reductions of some of the most troubling harms associated with opioids, including … overdose mortality and untreated … use disorders.” (See chart above for the stats from Colorado.)

With “Colorado’s southern border communities [leading] the state in 2017 per-capita cannabis sales,” more than ever, it makes sense for the Land of Enchantment to legalize. But it looks like we’ll wait another year — at least — for a policy reform that’s good for taxpayers, promotes economic development, and better focuses law enforcement on real problems.

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