Marijuana Legalization and Public Health: The Great Debate
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Marijuana Legalization and Public Health: The Great Debate

Highs (and lows) of Marijuana usage in the U.S.

1619: Cash crop. Virginia state assembly requires farmers to grow hemp.
1600s: Through early 1900s: Hemp production encouraged
1900-1920s: Mexican weed, recreational use becomes commonplace
1931: Marijuana outlawed in 29 states
1937: Congress criminalizes weed in its Marijuana Tax Act
1951-1956: Tough laws: a first offense marijuana possession gets minimum sentence of 2-10 years in jail plus fine
1960s: Hippie culture embraces marijuana, flaunts laws.
1986: Reagan signs Anti Drug Abuse Act
1989: Bush’s War on Drugs. Results: ineffective
1996: California is first to legalize use of marijuana for medicinal use.

High Times in the U.S.

23: Number of states that now legalize marijuana for medicinal use

Now: Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and Washington state, and Washington D.C. have legalized small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.

Fact: In the past 25 year, 210,000 marijuana-related arrests have been made in Colorado alone.

ZERO: number of those incarcerated in Colorado who will be released because marijuana is now legal in that state. U.S. is one of only 22 countries that doesn’t guarantee retroactive relief in sentencing.

Now: 19.8 million: estimated number of Americans, aged 12 or older that are current marijuana drug users in 2013. [Both legal and illicit.]

7.5: percentage of persons 12 or older who used marijuana in 2013
6.7: percentage of persons 12 or older using marijuana in 2009
5.8: percentage in 2002

Daily use of marijuana in U.S. has increased from 5.1 million people in 2007 to 8.1 million in 2013

16 million: number of people (in US) who use marijuana at least once a month

Marijuana and Public Health: The Good. And the Bad

The Good:


Scientific Evidence: Marijuana replacing alcohol for a growing percentage of youths. Pot smoking is up, drinking is down.

88,000: Number of people that die on average every year in the US alone from excessive alcohol use. Source: CDC

2: number of people worldwide that allegedly died in 2014 from marijuana overdose. Source: Forensic Science International

Fewer Painkiller Overdoses: States with medical marijuana laws have significantly lower rates of death caused by painkiller overdoses.

More pot smokers, fewer heroin addictions [based on arrest data]

Taxing weed, Good for state budgets:

Regardless of your feelings about legalizing marijuana, it’s hard to deny that legal weed would be a bonanza for cash-strapped states, just as tobacco and alcohol already are.

With Colorado and Washington starting to tax and regulate recreational weed sales, we can finally start to put some hard numbers on the industry’s value:

$1.53 billion: The amount the national legal marijuana market is worth, according to a Nov. 2013 report from ArcView Market Research group.
$10.2 billion: The estimated amount the national legal marijuana market will be worth in five years.
$6.17 million: The amount of tax revenue collected in Colorado on legal marijuana sales in just the first two months of 2014.
$98 million: The total tax revenue that Colorado could reap in the fiscal year that begins in July.
$40 million: The amount of marijuana tax revenue Colorado is devoting to public school construction..
7,500-10,000: The estimated number of marijuana industry jobs that currently exist in Colorado, according to Michael Elliott, the Executive Director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a trade association that advocates for responsible marijuana regulation.
$190 million: The amount in taxes and fees legal marijuana is projected for Washington state over four years starting in mid-2015.
$105 million: The estimated annual sales tax revenue generated by medical marijuana dispensaries in CA. 

$142.19 million: The estimated size of the medical marijuana market in Arizona in 2014, up from $35.37 million last year.
$36 million: The amount of estimated tax revenue Maine would earn every year if it legalized and regulated marijuana, according to a 2013 estimate from the Marijuana Policy Project.
$21.5 to $82 million: The amount of estimated tax revenue Rhode Island would earn every year if it legalized and regulated marijuana.
$134.6 million: The amount of estimated annual tax revenue Maryland would earn if it legalized and regulated marijuana, according to a 2014 estimate.
$17.4 billion: The estimated total amount that marijuana prohibition costs state and federal govt each year, according to a 2010 study by Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron.

The Bad

Some studies show marijuana is mildly addictive. More so than soda and coffee, but less than alcohol or nicotine.

40: Regular users of pot have a 40 percent increased risk of psychosis, schizophrenia, depression and anxiety disorders, according to The National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Stoned Kids: 80 percent increase of marijuana use by kids since 2008.

Causes a 20 to 100 percent increase in a smoker’s heart rate. Some users are 5 times more likely to have a heart attack after they use it.

Bad for Sex: Men who smoke pot regularly can experience impotence as well as infertility.

Drug cartels will still be responsible for large scale sales of marijuana, even in states where it is legal.

Danger on the roads: Don’t Drink and Drive, Don’t Smoke (Marijuana) and Drive Either!

3 hours: If you smoke weed and drive within 3 hours after, you are 2X more likely to be involved in a car crash then other drivers who don’t smoke marijuana.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (September 4, 2014) [marijuana substituting for alcohol among youths] [more pot smokers, fewer heroin addicts. Debunking the myths that one leads to the other]