Marijuana Legalization: States Weigh the Positives and Negatives


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In recent years, marijuana has become legal in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, D.C. It’s obvious that the majority in these states believe that marijuana should be a legal, if controlled, substance on par with tobacco and alcohol: for adult consumption only, but readily available to people who want to partake. There are persuasive arguments on both sides of the spectrum. Legalizing marijuana has a number of benefits, however, cautions NY attorney Isaac Abraham, it does come with a number of negative consequences, as well.

Auto, Health, and Life Insurance

The insurance industry is one of the most heavily affected by marijuana legalization. The affect on consumer rates, however, varies by industry.

Auto Insurance: A study performed by professors at the University of Colorado and Montana State University suggests that the legalization of marijuana may lead to a decrease in traffic accidents. The professors theorize that in general, this is because young adults who would otherwise be consuming alcohol will choose instead to consume marijuana in states where it is legal. This decrease will tend to lead to a decline in insurance rates for those in the affected bracket as insurance companies acknowledge the decrease in accidents and lower their rates accordingly. This decrease in accidents among individuals in this age range is also one of the most potent arguments in favor of marijuana legalization.

Health Insurance: In many cases, marijuana is used for health reasons: treating glaucoma, controlling epileptic seizures, and preventing the spread of cancer, among others. Unfortunately, it is also known to have some negative health effects if overused. Health insurance companies, therefore, are still grappling with the answer to how their rates will be affected by legal marijuana use.

Life Insurance: Life insurance companies, on the other hand, are coming down against marijuana: many companies are assigning the same penalty to marijuana use that they assign to smoking. Some companies are allowing moderate users, or those who use marijuana less than twice a week, to qualify as non-smokers for the time being.

Increased Tax Income

Currently, marijuana is one of the largest cash crops in the United States. Legalizing marijuana means that all the money associated with that crop is taxable–and that means that money from the sale of marijuana is going to the government, which is in desperate need of that income in many states. According to Forbes, the lost tax revenue could be around $31 billion per year in taxes–a substantial amount for a government that has been struggling under the weight of its increasing debt in recent years. Ultimately, it’s the issue of money that has caused many people to fall on the side of legalization.

Is Marijuana Really Criminal?

For many people in favor of legalization, this is the crucial question: should marijuana use be considered criminal? Proponents of marijuana insist that it is in the same category as alcohol and therefore should be treated the same way. Sure, it should be regulated; but it shouldn’t be illegal just to have it.

Currently, almost half of drug-related arrests are due to marijuana use. By legalizing marijuana use, all of the police hours spent pursuing these individuals can be redirected. Fewer people end up with criminal records for something that some sources suggest that as many as 40% of Americans have tried. Not only that; legalizing marijuana provides that much more space in prisons. Overall, the question of criminality boils down to this: are marijuana users the real bad guys? If not, freeing up prison space, police hours, and county budget by legalizing marijuana is well worth the change.

These are some of the factors that contribute to each state’s decision to legalize marijuana. For now, it will be determined on a state-by-state basis—often straight down the red state v. blue state divide— with many voters coming down in favor of marijuana for recreational and medical use. It’s an issue that will be appearing on many ballots in the next few years.