Drugs

The Benefits of Legal Medical Pot: Less Alcohol Abuse and an Economic Boom

The warnings of social disorder and increased drug abuse have not panned out in California, 17 years after the legalization of medical marijuana.

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The warnings about legalized medicinal marijuana were dire: there would be a breakdown in law and order and increasing drug abuse. But that hasn’t happened in California, the first state to legalize cannabis for medicinal use. Instead, California offers some positive lessons about legalizing marijuana, though the state has yet to make the jump to full legalization and complaints come in about marijuana smell.

The New York Times’ Adam Nagourney and Rick Lyman took a hard look at medicinal marijuana in California in an article published over the weekend. They found that 17 years after medical marijuana was legalized, the stark warnings about the state’s future were unfounded.

Marijuana, which is widely available even out with a medical card, has replaced alcohol for many as a their substance of choice. Research shows that driving while stoned is less dangerous than driving while drunk. And the fears that underage teenagers would find easy access to cannabis have not been borne out.

Despite law enforcement’s opposition to marijuana legalization, cannabis is on the march. Colorado and Washington recently made the jump to full legalization. “These states will experience a reduction in the social harms resulting from alcohol use: Reducing traffic injuries and fatalities is potentially one of the most important,” researchers D. Mark Anderson and Daniel Rees told the Times.

These states are also likely to see an economic boom as a result of the legalization. In California, the medical marijuana industry has led to tax revenue and local wealth. One marijuana dispensary in Oakland collected $1.2 million in sales tax last year for the city.

And for marijuana users, legalization has been a boon. The Times reports that competing dispensaries bring down the price of marijuana and sparked an industry full of edibles, marijuana-rich oils and topical ointments with THC.


 

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.