Recreational pot is in our future

Thomas Planera

More stories from Thomas Planera

The life of Lamone
March 23, 2016

Illinois passed a law on Jan. 1 allowing the use of medical marijuana, where citizens with qualifying medical conditions can apply for 2.5 ounces for two weeks.

Besides Illinois, 22 other states have legalized cannabis for medical use only.

This is just another step closer to legalizing recreational use- something that Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska have already done.

I’m not advocating for the recreational cannabis law to pass, but it’s pretty much inevitable.

ArcView Market Research, a firm that analyzes businesses and marijuana markets, concluded in a recent report that 18 more states will legalize recreational cannabis by the year 2020, and a Gallup poll released late last year shows that 51 percent of Americans would support legalization.

This percentage has been increasing steadily. Ten years ago it was 36 percent, and four years ago it was exactly half of us.

It’s clear which way the public opinion is shifting.

Obama also participated in a series of YouTube interviews covering a range of topics, one of them being legalization.

His viewpoint was clear that he’d leave it up to the states to decide if they want people legally smoking pot.

Even though the president emphasized marijuana’s illegal nature, anyone who watched the interviews could tell that his attitude towards fighting legalization is more laid back than administrations in the past.

Whether or not Illinois decides to take this step, it wouldn’t hurt our state. Let’s take a look at Colorado, a state that legalized the use of recreational marijuana back in 2012 and became the first one to do so.

Last year, the state earned $44 million in tax revenue from recreational cannabis alone.

Even though this is less than projected, experts and trend analysts predict this revenue to rise every year.

Just like tobacco and alcohol, Colorado demands sky high tax rates on the purchase of cannabis.

This revenue can go towards fighting illegal activity involving other, more harmful drugs.

Yes, multiple studies show that marijuana causes brain damage and cell loss and that it’s a drug that can be abused.

However, it’s nothing in comparison to alcohol and tobacco, which have both been legal for a very long time.

According to the CDC, approximately 480,000 people die every year in the US due to tobacco use and 88,000 due to alcohol use.

Zero die from cannabis.

Marijuana doesn’t seem to be a problem related with crime either. Denver police reports show that crime has actually decreased since legalization (Denver is the number one cannabis hub in the continental United States).

Tourism and legalization come together as well. Some may not want smokers flowing into their state, but the reality is that the weed business attracts people from around the country.

Colorado saw a rise in tourism, and revenue, for the past two years.

Although Illinois was not one of the 18 states mentioned in the ArcView Market report, I do believe that we will adopt this policy in the next decade.

Every other state, with the exception of Texas, will eventually follow.