While under federal law marijuana is illegal, a number of US states have legalized recreational use. As expected, the only effects of legalization haven't been blood-shot eyed smokers running the street. Instead, states that have taken the step to legalize have seen a number of positive and negative impacts in unexpected areas.
With legalization less than 12 hours away in Canada, I'm sure we can use our southern neighbors as an example of what we might see in the coming months and years.
Since the state of Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, their state revenues have skyrocketed. In the first year of legalization, the state saw over $67 million in marijuana tax revenue, so far, as of September of this year, they've seen over $200,000.
Provinces across Canada can likely look forward to the same. According to the research company, VS strategies, Colorado has spent most of their profits on schools as well as drug prevention and treatment programs.
Decrease in marijuana-related crimes
While this might seem like an obvious one seeing as the drug is legal, it's a little bit more complicated. Yes, pot is legal in some US states and as of tomorrow, in Canada, yet, there are still rules to follow.
For example, the age of consumption, where to smoke, driving under the influence, where to buy, how much you can have and how much you can grow.
Getting into trouble with pot is still possible. However, Oregon and Washington DC have both seen a decrease in marijuana-related crimes since legalization.
In Oregon, rates decreased from 35 arrests per 100,000 in 2011 to nine arrests per 100,000 in the two years following legalization.
In Washington, DC, pot arrests decreased by a whopping 85% in the first year of legalization, according to The Washington Post.
Decrease in violent crime
Legalizing pot in Colorado had a completely opposite effect of what a lot of naysayers believed. Instead of spiking violent crime in the state, it actually decreased it by 2.2 percent in the first year. During the first six months of legalization, instances of homicide, sexual assault and robbery all dropped.
Data from Washington, DC legalization also shows marijuana has not increased any violent crime.
We've all heard those rumours that Americans are going to be flocking north once we legalize pot. Well, according to data from Colorado, it could be true. Following the legalization of pot, they saw a population increase of 3.2 percent in the first year.
Increased perceptions from youth that pot is harmful
In 2013, before Oregon legalized pot, a survey indicated that 64 percent of grade 8s and 48 percent of grade 11s thought smoking marijuana was harmful. Two years after the state had legalized, 55 percent of grade 8s and 68 percent of grade 11s did.
With increased government warnings upon legalization, Canada could likely expect the same from future youth.
A year following legalization in Colorado, the city of Denver saw an 8 percent increase in homelessness. Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper stated to the media that he thought pot was partially to blame, “There’s no question that marijuana and other drugs – in combination with mental illness or other disabling conditions – are essential contributors to chronic homelessness.”
In rebuttal, John Parvensky of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless stated its more alcohol and hard drugs that cause homelessness, not cannabis. As there is no official data revealing exactly why the homeless number increased in the city, the topic has been highly debated.
Increased hospitalization and emergency room visits
Hospitalizations related to marijuana almost doubled in Colorado after legalization. Marijuana-related emergency room visits also increased by about 4,000.
Health officials say most of the hospital visits which occurred were from out-of-staters who might have gone a little too crazy with the drug. Edibles have also been an issue since the potency of them can be hard to gauge, therefore leading people to overconsume.
These US states can clearly attest that pot legalization has had a few unexpected side effects. Keep an eye out for some of these ones in the coming months and years, Canada.
Source: Colorado Department Revenue, CNN, The Guardian, The Boston Globe