How Will Marijuana Legalization Affect Public Health

It is a very exciting time to be a pothead in America. With legalization spreading across the US many are starting to get involved in the expanding industry that is here to stay. So how will marijuana affect public health In Oregon the distribution of the tax revenue is going to be funded into schools, mental health services, State Police and Oregon Health Authority. Last year Colorado brought in $60.1 million in taxes. All of the taxed money from sales here will be used as a way of advancing and educating Oregon’s public health. Upon researching fiction and nonfiction many inferences have been drawn as to what Marijuana is going to do in the future. On top of that, insights from a few subjects have been compiled to see what different peoples thoughts on the topic are. What it all comes down to is that even if you don’t use the plant it is still going to have some impact on you. Legalizing marijuana means a regulated market, government reaping taxes and much less drug related violence caused by the injustice of the legal system. The rising tide of legalization could be a boon to public health.

As of right now, marijuana is the fastest growing industry in the United States with a market worth $2.7 billion. Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Washington D.C have all passed bills enabling the legal use of cannabis. In 2014 Colorado sold 260,600 pounds of legal marijuana to over 485,000 adults. Between January and October the state sold $246,810,599 worth of recreational weed compared to $326,716,273 in medicinal sales. If all states were to legalize the use the market would top over $36.8 billion which would be larger than the entire organic food industry. With a virtually untapped market, many investors are seeing potential. The down side is some are trying to turn it into big tobacco like companies that solely seek out large profits, but when it comes down to it all, once the industry gets going it will create lots of new jobs in many different departments. The opportunities here are endless.

Legalizing pot means a regulated market, high tax revenue and fewer people being affected by the violence of the war on pot and injustices in the legal system. No country in this modern era has legalized marijuana meaning there is no historical data as to the effect of marijuana on the public so these are exciting times. A professor at Montana State named Mark Anderson said that “The social costs of alcohol are pretty darn high”, in his research he has found that alcohol and marijuana are substitutes for each other not complements so if marijuana is easier for adults to acquire more people may use it instead of alcohol. If the substitution effect is large then increasing marijuana use could be good for public health. About 88,000 people die each year in the US from excessive alcohol use. If marijuana was to decrease alcohol consumption by just 10 percent it would negate the negative effects from increased marijuana use. The legalization of marijuana will lead to the improvement of psychological well being in adults and especially young males. The only thing that will “affect” the public’s health is a bit of an increase in a virtually harmless substance.

In a survey posted on my senior english classroom website and twitter, forty two responses were recorded. It had basic questions referring to marijuana use, sales and effects, i discovered that 83.4% of the people who took the survey said they have tried marijuana before and 78.6% support legalization. Most of the responses feel that regulated weed laws will be capable of pushing away black market drug trades and that teen use will stay the same but it will overall be easier to access. Over three fourths also sided with agreeing that “marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol.” This survey revealed that most people feel like marijuana could be good on the public ‘s overall wellness because not a lot people had responses arguing as to why it would be bad and how it could negatively affect people. The first day the survey was posted it was just on the classroom site and only two people said they had never tried marijuana and this is remarkable because in most marijuana related surveys in the past especially in schools the majority said that they haven’t tried it or that they are not for it. I feel like Lakeridge students have good understanding and knowledge about marijuana because of the approach they have towards it.

Another component of all this was to interview different people to add their insights to the topic. Washington State Trooper Denton had a few things to say from what he has learned in his time on the Police force. It may seem like it but (most) cops do not go around trying to bust people, “Officers want to focus on real crimes that actually contribute to safety. With marijuana legalization set in Washington it has already helped increase the community ‘s trust in Police.” It is highly important to have trust between Police and communities and marijuana legalization has made that easier in Washington and Colorado. Wouldn’t you feel safer knowing that police are focusing on crimes that will help the public It seems like cops waste there time going for easy busts but that is changing and it is noticeable in Washington and Colorado already. Police officers also support the legalization because of the tax benefits, it all goes back to help out states and communities its not just the stoners reaping the benefits. He also added this at the end of the interview “Those who support the non legal system, unintentionally support the cartel and black market dealers, those same dealers don’t want prohibition to end either because they are making money from it.” Reason being again for why you need a system that is regulated and controlled. You don’t see people downtown selling bottles of liquor to people who can’t access it, people are taking advantage of the system.

A conclusion i have found about those who oppose legalization is that they are misinformed about legal cannabis. You don’t have to smoke to support it but it is important to at least understand it. In the second interview the person ‘s views changed after talking and understanding the bigger picture behind it. His name is Matt, a middle aged man who doesn ‘t smoke marijuana. Based off the responses it was clear that his concerns were in the wrong places and everything was brief and short. For instance when asked about the long term and short term impacts they said there would be “more dope smokers, more information we already know and rise in ‘pot shops. He didn ‘t even consider things like the tax revenue, more jobs (nationwide), regulation and impact on public health. I mean even police officers are voting for legalized marijuana because of what it will bring to the public. I told him the stats from Colorado in 2014 and he was shocked by the amount of tax dollars they brought it. When he realized what $60.1 million can do to a community he started to change gears. Then he said “I would like to see less people getting arrested and more people educated with a strong legal system on the plant.” Make sense, the state ‘s injustice towards people is unfair, costly and more specifically targets blacks in some areas. At the end of the interview Matt said he developed a broader understanding and after looking at the written law he has no concerns as to what legalization will do.

Those who support it really support it and are strong positive advocates for it. Mike Estes is a former professional snowboarder and mountain biker, he is also a Oregon Medical Marijuana Patient (OMMP) for severe pain. Mike knows his stuff very well and he learned a lot of what he knows from his dad who recently passed. He spent his whole life educating people about marijuana ‘s medicinal benefits and now Mike is continuing on his legacy through a crusade for cannabis. Being involved in the medical industry Mike sees “A large increase in jobs, long term drug education, improved economy and increased tourism.” Mike sees no flaws in the laws that Oregon Legislation has passed and the sky is truly the limit with where the industry will go plus all the benefits it will bring. Being a father to a ten year old, he would like to see “School drug education stepped up, currently it is my job to make sure she grows up knowing its dangers, yet explain compassionately the benefits because at the end of the day i want her to be confident in the choices she decides to make.” Educating kids while they are younger just makes sense so they can develop a larger understanding before they are introduced to something that is predominant in teenage society. Legalization is fueled by research and it is just steamrolling right along because all the myths about around pot are going up in smoke. As Mike put it “Marijuanas era under Reagan and Reefer Madness bullshit are over and now we can benefit from something that is absolutely harmless to public health and society.” Those who support marijuana legalization like Mike are all excited for the economic future pot has brought to the table.

With a topic like this we see a few big ideas, public health, money and education. Part of this project was to collect evidence from non-fiction work. For this, two pieces from T.C Boyle, Budding Prospects and Greasy Lake were read as well the movie Kid Cannabis and another short story Cathedral. These three pieces differed yet you could see similar parallels in them all. As well connected to the topic on public health and money.

In Idaho it is illegal to possess marijuana in any amount. This is how the true story behind Kid Cannabis came to be. Theres many bad things that you can easily identify with the black market. One of these being that it gives money and power to the wrong people, who could potentially be dangerous. Kid Cannabis is the story about Nate Norman, your average high school dropout who come to the idea about transporting marijuana over the CanadaUS border in unseen land so he can supply “cheaper and danker bud.” It didn’t take long to get people on board and before he knew it they were bringing over pounds and pounds. In less than a year a group of guys were able to bring over 17,000 pounds of BC bud turning a profit of over $38 million. Things are going good for them until a competition drug dealer in town gets whiff of what ‘s going on. Coeur d ‘alene, Idaho is not the biggest town and with two big figures in one place you know there will be trouble. One eventually shows up dead bringing the attention to the feds. The gig eventually gets busted and everyone gets what was coming to them. The idea behind it tho is what the black market does and what it creates. If you have a controlled and regulated market it eliminates people like Nate Norman who can potentially be dangerous to society. If Idaho was to legalize marijuana it would eliminate the black market for marijuana and the state could use the taxed money to substantially lower tax revenue. Not only that but all the current passed laws focus on drug prevention, treatment, recovery support, and new criminal justice strategies to break drug use and crime. This approach helps improve public health and safety.

The short story Greasy Lake is set years back and its about a bunch of “rebels without a cause” who spend their time smoking weed and getting drunk coming of age around this nasty polluted lake. In this story tons of ignorance is found. In the time of the story the view that the world had on marijuana was that it was bad and if you smoked it you were a bad person so these people would hide out at this lake so they could be themselves and not get judged for their taboo choices. The murkiness of the water directly relates to the murkiness of times when this story took place. People were uneducated and uninformed about marijuana so they associated it with bad things and bad people. Neither the water or characters were clean but only the water is truly polluted. You can educate people and clear their minds but the lake stays the same. These kids come of age in the story and realize their actions when they should have been told earlier. People don’t look for trouble in something that is legal so thats why they makes these choices and go to the lake. Another short story that had marijuana use involved was Cathedral. In it, the narrator is meeting one his wifes blind friends who is visiting them. The two get to know each other and before you know it, the narrator ask the blind man if “he would wanted to smoke some dope.” (Carver 104) He treats it completely normal as if he was offering the man a drink and the blind man politely accepts even though he has never tried it. Marijuana is not something people who should shun or have to do in hiding like that in Greasy Lake. This short story depicts cannabis use well in a proper manor that doesn’t give it a bad wrap. This short story is indeed a newer one but it goes back to add to the changing of times.

Money plays a huge role in the marijuana industry. From distribution to sales to law enforcement it is big. In the past history of the US, a lot of money has been spent to enforce laws that incarcerate or fine people for minor offenses. The novel Budding Prospects deals with a group of guys who are based in California managing a massive marijuana grow operation and the biggest threat they face is the “Sinsemilla Strike Force” (Boyle 188) This force had federal agents and local police departments “sniffing out illicit growing operations” (Boyle 188) This story took place in 1984 and the department was granted $400,000 at the time to end these sort of operations. The area in which they were in didn ‘t contain that many people, it was just a small beat down town and this wasn ‘t the only town that was getting these spendy grants to bust people. This money clearly comes from taxes and even to this day these types of acts still take place. The enforcement is not making enough from busts that would even match the price to start it all. It is actually a bigger drag on the system because it is costing more to en prison harmless people when there focus could be on bigger issues. In 2010 law enforcement spent over $3 billion just on the war on pot. There need to be an end to the injustice of the system that criminalizes some people for harmless offenses, the only capable way of controlling it is to regulate it.

With the present amount of information, i see absolutely no reason as to why marijuana legalization is a “bad” thing. It is pretty clear about the good it will bring to states and the effects it will have on the legal system and public. Paranoia-stoking tactics that have been present in our society about marijuana use are out the door. Yes, legalization will indefinitely lead to a significant rise in consumption however, if use increases there are many suggestions and indications that alcohol and other drug use will decline. States with medical marijuana laws have much much lower rates of painkiller overdoses as well as traffic fatalities because people with THC (psychoactive component of marijuana) in their bodies are much likelier to be more precautionary when driving versus someone who is driving drunk. On top of that alcohol use is associated with violent behavior. Alcohol is a much more dependent substance than marijuana and it is conclude by many that “legalization of marijuana leads to an improvement in psychological well being of young males.” It has been proven that most of those who consume marijuana are between the ages of 18 and 30 so legalization may help out the well being in the public and especially young males. We are a far ways out from knowing the true impact that legalization will bring, it will take many years but for now and with where it is going there is no doubt in my mind that legalization will bring on nothing but positive effects to the public. So how will marijuana legalization affect public health It will affect education, economy, health and safety of those living in legalized states. Not everyone will agree, but i feel that it will certainly prove itself to be good to the public and have a good affect on the overall health and being.

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