The legalization of marijuana in Colorado illustrates a significant shift in public opinion of recreational marijuana usage, and its not just the people who were lined up in front of the dispensaries on January 1st. Nationwide, more and more people are beginning to jump on the legalization bandwagon, for varying reasons.
Scott Shane, a professor of entrepreneurial studies at Case Western Reserve University, does an excellent job of illustrating the economic standpoint of the legalization argument in his article. In it, he describes the broad reaching benefits that legalization of marijuana can have on the economy – namely high tax revenue. He argues that making a business illegal does not halt entrepreneurial pursuits in its field, and that it is common knowledge that marijuana is a very large, profitable business in all 50 states, including the 48 where it is illegal. He goes on to say that in Colorado, the legal purchase of marijuana carries a 25% tax, on top of the 2.9% sales tax on the product, which doesnt seem to be limiting sales in the slightest. How long this high sale volume will last is unsure, but official estimates put Colorado with almost 70 million more tax dollars at the end of 2014 than it would have without marijuana taxes, which will initially be used for the building of public schools but are expected to far exceed those costs. The article touches on some other key points in the legalization push, including:
Tobacco and alcohol (recreational drug products which are proven to be harmul) are legal in the 48 states where marijuana is not.
Legalization of weed will lessen the strain on drug enforcement efforts, which in turn allows more focus on dangerous, crime causing drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
The fact that, for many, marijuana and alcohol are substitutes for each other, and that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, which could potentially cause a drop in overall alcohol usage, boosting public health.
Overall, Shane provides a surprisingly sober look into reasons for legalization that veer away from the “It isn’t bad for you” argument that is typically heard from supporters. It seems many Americans are beginning to take this standpoint on the issue, which I find interesting, as it could signal the spread of support for legalization branching further away from people who use marijuana regardless of its legal status to those who do not use it and may not even if it were legal where they lived. After all, this support from the educated, voting population is the kind that any legal amendment needs, marijuana being no exception. My question is, can this movement breach the point of no return? Or will lawmakers strike it down before it reaches its critical mass? Only time will tell.