10 pieces of scientific evidence which prove the benefits of cannabis legalisation for society

Di: Contributor Culture

Not only is marijuana a highly safe substance, but it can also be beneficial to society as a whole. There are several studies which indicate that cannabis is simply not harmful to the community, as prohibitionists claim. In fact, it is quite the opposite: scientific evidence has proven that cannabis legalisation makes our society better in more ways than one.

Dating back to the darkest days of anti-marijuana propaganda, the defenders of its criminalisation have tended to make their arguments in terms of protecting citizens from a substance that is allegedly dangerous to public health. However, research studies have concluded that cannabis legalisation would in fact improve public health and provide multiple benefits to society.

In a recent article published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the economists D. Mark Anderson and Daniel I. Rees reviewed dozens of scientific papers investigating the health consequences of medical cannabis laws. They also evaluated the legalisation of recreational marijuana (although data is scarcer in this area). Here are ten key ways in which they concluded that legalisation could improve our society:

1. Reducing the use of tobacco saves lives

Cannabis consumption can have certain health implications that must be taken into consideration when making decisions about personal use, but essentially no one dies directly because of it. In contrast, tobacco kills millions of people every year, so anything that reduces traditional cigarette use is likely to save lives. This new research shows that not only is there “little evidence that legalisation has encouraged the smoking of tobacco”, as critics predicted; but “if anything, it has discouraged its use”.

A study cited in the article found that the laws on medical cannabis are associated with a 6% reduction in cigarette consumption and a 12% decline in frequent smoking among teenagers. Another study concluded that “the legalisation of recreational marijuana is associated with a 12% decrease in tobacco demand”.

2. Decrease in alcohol consumption and deaths from road traffic accidents

While the proliferation of legal marijuana can lead to increased consumption, this is not necessarily negative for public health. In fact, the reference article concludes that cannabis often serves as a substitute for alcohol, the use of which contributes to approximately 95,000 deaths per year in the United States alone.

Several studies cited in the article have found that the legalisation of recreational marijuana is associated with a 5% decrease in alcohol demand and a 20% decrease in alcohol abuse, even amongst university students. According to one of the revised studies, medical marijuana laws can also be associated to a 13 – 15% decline in alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

3. Decrease in violent crimes

The criminalisation of marijuana has contributed to boosting the black market and illegal activities, which has then resulted in more violent crime. Therefore, it’s no surprise that “some studies provide strong evidence that legalisation reduces non-drug crimes”. Certain studies also show that the opening of legal dispensaries is associated with a 19% fall in general crime. And another study found that the legalisation of recreational cannabis led to a 15 – 30% reduction in rapes and a 10 – 20% reduction in thefts.

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4. Reduction in mental health treatments

A recent study shows that the US states where recreational cannabis has been regulated have even experienced a drop in the implementation of mental health treatments. This study, which was published in Health Economics, analysed data from 10 states which enjoy legalised recreational marijuana. “The results indicate that shortly after a state adopts the legalisation of recreational marijuana, it experiences a decrease in the average number of mental health treatment admissions”. In addition, it claims a 37% drop in admissions to mental health facilities, which translates into around 92 fewer admissions per 10,000 individuals in a state.

It is not surprising to also find a correlation between the states experiencing a drop in psychiatric drugs when cannabis is available. For instance, a three-month study conducted by researchers at the University of Florida found that not only was cannabis beneficial to chronic pain, but it also helped reduce the need for psychiatric medication and painkillers.

5. Decrease in suicide rates

Some studies have also proven a correlation between legal marijuana and a decrease in suicide rates. A 2014 study found that the adoption of a medical marijuana law “was associated with an 11% reduction in suicides among male 20- through 29-year-olds, and a 9% reduction in suicides among male 30- through 39-year-olds”. (The data on female suicide rate was not as clear). Moreover, a 2020 study “found that the adoption of a medical marijuana law was associated with fewer firearm-related suicides, but its relationship with non-firearm-related suicides, although negative, was not statistically significant”.

10 pieces of scientific evidence which prove the benefits of cannabis legalisation for society

6. There is no longer any ‘gateway drug’: legalisation does not increase substance abuse

In another study published in the journal Psychological Medicine on 5 January 2023, researchers from the University of Minnesota leveraged data from two of the country’s largest and longest-running twin studies. By comparing 40% of the twins living in states with legal recreational marijuana laws and those living in states where marijuana is still illegal, scientists discovered that legalisation does not increase either substance use disorders or the use of other illicit drugs among adults. In fact, legalisation can actually help reduce alcohol-related issues. The study also found no link between cannabis legalisation and increased cognitive, psychological, social, relational, or financial problems.

7. Cannabis can help the economy

The cannabis industry has grown exponentially in recent years, generating more tax revenue which is often redistributed to programmes benefitting local communities. According to the Washington Post, if cannabis were legal at federal level, it is estimated that the industry would accumulate $131.8 billion in federal tax revenue between 2017 and 2025. This money could be destined to programmes which benefit the communities, especially those disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.

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8. The legalisation of cannabis creates more jobs

The cannabis industry is arguably the fastest growing industry to date: it has doubled in size in the last four years and, according to the 2023 Vangst Jobs Report, there are now 417,493 full-time jobs backed by legal cannabis in the US. What’s more, legal jobs related to cannabis are expected to grow by 250% in the next 10 years, which is more than for any other industry.

9. Legalisation reduces legal and police costs

The American Civil Liberties Union estimates that $7.7 billion are spent every year to enforce the war on drugs. One part of this big budget could be reused for programmes that help the communities affected by this war, as well as for education and cannabis regulation purposes. A new research study by Health Canada has also discovered that legalisation, which was implemented in 2018, was associated with an immediate decrease in cannabis-related juvenile crime reported by the police, which has offered relief to both the Canadian youth and the criminal justice system.

10. In short, cannabis can make our society much better

There is also growing scientific evidence suggesting that marijuana use makes us more empathetic and, in general, more pleasant. The latest of these studies was conducted by researchers at the University of New Mexico (UNM) and was entitled “Cannabis consumption and prosociality”. These scientists found that cannabis users showed more empathy, more morality in their decision making, and better prosocial behaviour than non-users, which confirmed that there was a causal association between these behaviours and marijuana use.

It is clear that prosociality is essential for the cohesion and general vitality of society. Therefore, the effects of cannabis on our interpersonal interactions may become even more important for social welfare than its medicinal effects.

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Conclusion: results matter more than intentions

There is no doubt that many lawmakers who support the criminalisation of marijuana seriously hope to protect citizens. But, like the economist and Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman said, “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programmes by their intentions rather than their results”.

Or, like the economist Robert P. Murphy wrote, “It’s not enough for voters to endorse legislation that has a nice title and promises to do something good. People need to think through the full consequences of a policy, because often it will lead to a cure worse than the disease”.

In fact, marijuana criminalisation has led to a ‘cure’ that’s much worse for society than the ‘disease’ itself. And now we know that abandoning this failed policy would literally have results that could save many lives.

Kannabia Seeds Company sells to its customers a product collection, a souvenir. We cannot and we shall not give growing advice since our product is not intended for this purpose.

Kannabia accept no responsibility for any illegal use made by third parties of information published. The cultivation of cannabis for personal consumption is an activity subject to legal restrictions that vary from state to state. We recommend consultation of the legislation in force in your country of residence to avoid participation in any illegal activity.

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