Cannabis Benefits Beyond ConsumptionWhether you consume it or not, several recent studies show cannabis legalization benefits communities that embrace it.
When advocates first started the fight for legal cannabis, the argument centered on compassionate care for the patients. Yet, as the research and anecdotal stories proliferated on the internet, publications, writers, and influencers soon found themselves blocked, banned, and shoved back into the shadows thanks to Google algorithms, social media bots, and other digital censorship tools.
However, as legalization continues to spread from state to state with Federal changes on the cusp, it’s essential to look at how cannabis impacts other areas of our lives and communities. Based on several studies published this year, the benefits of cannabis legalization go far beyond health and wellness.
Increased Tax Revenue
While mature markets have started to report a decline in tax revenues, a report from the Tax Policy Center showed Colorado and Washington have collected more tax from cannabis in 2022 than alcohol or cigarettes.
In 2022, Colorado collected $353.7 million in cannabis tax dollars, or close to seven times more than alcohol sales. In the Pacific Northwest, Washington reported $517 million in cannabis tax and around $490 million from alcohol.
And where is that money going? In Colorado, funds help provide services for the homeless, fund school programs, and even provide college scholarships for students. According to an article in the Center Square from January about Washington, “For every $1 billion in revenue collected from the state’s cannabis retail tax, nearly $600 million is funneled into public health initiatives, including a fund that provides health insurance for low-income families.”
Decreased Illicit Activity
So often, we hear the argument that opening cannabis retail stores will change a community's wholesome nature. Prohibition supporters, churches, and law enforcement agencies frequently say that cannabis “attacks a particular element.”
However, statistics prove that can’t be further from the truth. In a report from Whitney Economics and Leafly, the fewer cannabis dispensaries there are in a community, the higher the probability of illicit market activity.
In an article from Marijuana Moment, Beau Whitney, founder of Whitney Economics, stated, “Access and taxes, those are the keys to customer migration to the legal market… And right now, we’re seeing illegal cannabis sales propped up by opt-out cities and counties.”
Decreased Dependence on Pharmaceutical Drugs
According to statistics from Single Care, roughly 66% of adults in the United States are taking some kind of pharmaceutical prescription. Corresponding statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicate why this is a much bigger problem than people realize. According to their site, “The fastest-growing drug problem in the United States isn’t cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines. It is prescription drugs, and it profoundly affects teenagers' lives.”
Although many naysayers argue that cannabis has no medical benefits, according to recent reports published in the journal PLOS ONE last month, the pharmaceutical industry experiences significant losses each time a state legalizes cannabis. Analyzing stock returns and drug sales for 556 pharma producers, the report found an average market loss of $10 billion each time a state legalizes cannabis.
The report’s authors stated, “We find the average change in a firm’s market value per legalization event is $63 million with a total impact on market value across firms per event of $9.8 billion.”
Safer Products for Consumers
For consumers, one of the biggest benefits of legalization is product quality. In the illicit market, growers do not have someone checking their crops and products for toxins, pesticides, or microbial contaminants. Before legalization, consumers have always been at the seller's mercy and often have no insight into how that product was cultivated or processed.
A recent paper published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal adds substance to this claim by suggesting that the lack of federal regulation is actually continuing to put consumers at risk by preventing unified regulatory guidelines. With the patchwork quilt of regulations and guidelines, even with state regulation, many consumers are getting more than they know.
The research team noted 679 contaminants being regulated by 36 states. But due to differences from state to state, many testing requirements are missing the boat. Only 23 states regulated all four contaminant categories, including pesticides, inorganics, solvents, and microbes, suggesting that consumers in many states may be at risk.