The term medical marijuana refers to using marijuana or its basic extracts as prescribed by doctors for their patients to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions.
For the past several decades, the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes has received increasingly more attention. Medical marijuana is currently legal in 29 states including Washington D.C whereas recreational marijuana is currently legal in 9 states (including Washington D.C) all over the world. However, these policies contradict the current federal laws which limit its use in biomedical research.
Brief History Of Medical Marijuana In The US
The cultivation of Cannabis sativa, otherwise known as marijuana, dates back to the early 17th century, people realized the countless benefits of using marijuana seeds and whole plant cannabis. In the year 1937, the permissive attitudes toward marijuana changed dramatically when the Federal Government then passed the Marijuana Tax Act, outlawing the non-medical use of marijuana. According to this law, marijuana was categorized as a Schedule I controlled substance. This means that whole-plant cannabis cannot be prescribed legally by doctors.
In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Several more states followed California’s lead in the years to come. As the medical benefits of marijuana further come to light, a positive response is being seen in the number of states that are legalizing the drug for medicinal use with every passing year. As of 1st January 2018, California has become the largest state in the US to legalize recreational cannabis use.
How Legalisation Of Medical Marijuana Has Helped The US
Here are a few ways the US has benefitted from the legalization of medical marijuana:
1. Can Help To Solve Opioid Crisis
Until 2016, more than 200000 people had died in the US due to prescription opioid overdose. Cannabis, purchased from certified nearby dispensary can be a safer and healthier alternative to opioids. A study showed that in just the first year after Colorado legalized cannabis, opioid deaths went down 6.5 percent, reversing several year trends of overdose deaths decreasing.
2. Employment Opportunities
Today, an estimated 165,000 to 230,000 people are employed in the cannabis industry in the United States. And that number is only expected to grow as more states legalize the drug recreationally. Many cannabis products are being manufactured today, like cannabis edibles, CBD oil and various marijuana strains that require manual labor.
3. Decrease In Crime
There was a rapid decline in violent crime rates in the US- up to 12.5% after the introduction of medical marijuana laws. These laws allow the people to grow marijuana in their own homes rather than purchasing it from unauthorized sellers. The decreased arrests also mean police departments can divert their attention to more important crimes.
4. Tax Revenue Generation
The legal cannabis market in the US was worth $7.6 in 2016 and is estimated to jump to a whopping $11.2 billion by 2020. According to a recent analysis, with the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, weed sales have generated over $500 million worth of revenue since its legalization.
5. Teen Drug Abuse
While many people are skeptical that cannabis legalization can lead to potential drug abuse in teens and youngsters, the results have been contradictory. The rate of marijuana use in teens ranging from 12 to 17 years dropped to their lowest as compared to the last 20 years.
The legalization of marijuana has also helped America attract tourists in large numbers. These people are usually from states where marijuana use is still illegal as it allows visitors to sample an array of marijuana products in the city’s marijuana nurseries and stores. This form of tourism has now taken the name of “canna-tourism.”
Setting up marijuana dispensaries and stores will not only create job opportunities but can also help boost America’s economy. According to a paper signed by 300 economists, the government would actually save an estimated $7.7 billion through the legalization of marijuana, by saving on the current prohibition cost on drugs.
The obvious economic benefits of medicinal marijuana outweigh the social concerns for pot legalization as proven by the benefits states and cities have reaped from making medical marijuana legal. Complete legalization of medical marijuana is a long battle.
For example, Minnesota, a state in America has legalized the medicinal use of marijuana but has not given the rights to the doctors or the pharmacies to prescribe the drug. Instead, patients have to satisfy a series of conditions to be able to enroll in a patient registry maintained by the State.
The main question that arises is- Why is marijuana illegal in most states when alcohol, tobacco, and other substances are already legally available?