Reaching New Highs

I only have a month left in Canada, but I have grown to build a deep connection to this northern country. So when I see a major news story, one that may result in some shaky ground between Canada and America, I’m very invested in its implications.

According to the CBC, Canada’s Liberal government will announce legislation this month that will nationally legalize marijuana by July 1, 2018. Within this policy, the federal government will be in charge of making sure the country’s marijuana supply is safe and secure and Ottawa will license producers. Provinces will have the right to decide how the marijuana is distributed and sold. Provincial governments will also have the right to set price.While Ottawa will set a minimum age of 18 to buy marijuana, the provinces will have the option of setting a higher age limit if they wish.

College students are a key voter group interested in legalizing marijuana. The University of Michigan reports over 38 percent of college students using marijuana in 2015. Alcohol, tobacco and narcotic use have both declined. If students are becoming more comfortable with marijuana, their voices could add leverage to the argument for more state governments to consider the implications.

As several U.S. states legalize marijuana, making the plant legal nationwide has been an ongoing issue leaving many wondering the potential consequences of marijuana for individuals, states and the country. With the pros ultimately outweighing the cons, the United States should consider following Canada’s lead on national marijuana legality.

Canada’s intended policy refers mainly to recreational cannabis because medical usage is already legal. According to the Washington Post, America’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies marijuana as a drug with “no currently accepted medical use” and precludes doctors from prescribing it. However, 25 states have already legalized medical marijuana, and The National Institute on Drug Abuse says scientific study of the chemicals in marijuana has led to two FDA-approved medications that contain these chemicals in pill form. Before America can really consider permitting recreational use, the country must recognize its medicinal qualities.

Beyond treating conditions such as mental illnesses, addictions, epilepsy, and chronic pain, marijuana also has many other benefits. According to US News, Research in some of the 25 states where medical marijuana is legal has found a possible protective effect against opioid overdose deaths, a major step in the current opioid epidemic within healthcare.

On a larger scale, governmental taxation of marijuana could provide new funds for the economy. Colorado’s Marijuana Policy Group has shown an increase of 18,005 full-time jobs and about $2.4 billion in revenue in 2015 alone. Every dollar spent in the marijuana industry generates between $2.13 and $2.40 in economic activity. Only federal government spending has a higher multiplier. One NPR interviews says the state funds are primarily going toward education – teaching youth about the potential risks and what we know, also teaching adults about how to treat this newly legal substance. A focus on education helps bring awareness to the negative side effects marijuana may have on the developing brain and while driving.

With different Colorado municipalities able to disseminate the money however they choose, the state is also seeing cities give back to homelessness or creating college scholarships. On a national scale, the potential revenue marijuana taxes might generate could go back to areas of concern for American voters, including healthcare, education and the environment, the latter of which has severe consequences, especially after the Trump administration’s executive order to focus on job creation and production over rising sea levels and temperatures, as CNN reports.

One Science Nordic article even suggests a sharp decrease in organized crime from legalizing marijuana. Drug gangs lose their incentive to smuggle cannabis across state and national borders as the demand for illegal means of obtaining it lessen. Less drug trafficking is associated with less violence and crimes, fostering a safer community for everyone.

Legalizing marijuana is associated with supporting the fight against America’s mass prison incarceration. According to the ACLU, marijuana arrests now account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States. Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simply having marijuana. Nationwide, the arrest data revealed one consistent trend: significant racial bias. Despite roughly equal usage rates, African Americans are 3.73 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana. Trying to uphold marijuana regulation costs states over $3 billion dollars, money that could be better spent for public interests.

As the United States hold firm on its anti-cannabis stance, it also holds firm to outdated notions similar to that of 20th century alcohol prohibition. National prohibition was undertaken to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, reduce the tax burden created by prisons and poorhouses, and improve health and hygiene in America. The results of that experiment, as the Cato Institute supports, clearly indicate that it failed on all counts.

The public and government officials must be willing to open their minds to all the social and economic benefits legalized marijuana provides. Canada is taking a significant step forward in its plans while the United States continues shrinking back to old notions that lead to greater discrepancy. If young people are already very interested in the marijuana industry, the government should take advantage of that opportunity. Otherwise, the United States might just go up in smoke.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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