November 2, 2016

Revenue Up in Smoke

States might think twice about legalizing recreational marijuana use.

After the historic legalization of recreational marijuana use in the states of Colorado and Washington in 2012, five more states have legalization initiatives on their ballots. Many supporters of marijuana legalization have claimed it will cut down on crime and therefore decrease the burden on state budgets. Often glamorizing weed as a mostly harmless substance, proponents contend that legalization of marijuana would create a new revenue source for state governments as licensing fees, taxes and fewer funds spent on enforcement.

The problem is that recent studies suggest the opposite is the case. Among black and Hispanic youth in Colorado, drug offenses rose by 58% and 29% respectively since legalization. In Washington, pot-related traffic deaths have almost doubled. Statics show that nearly one in six youths who try pot will become addicted, which is a higher rate than for alcohol. Calls to poison control for marijuana-related overdoses in Colorado have shot up 108% since 2012. As an increasing number of studies are being conducted on the effects of recreational pot use, some early findings are quite alarming, showing lowered IQ levels and increased risks for psychotic schizophrenic episodes.

What of the supposed marijuana-created revenue for state governments? Well, so far at best it has been a zero sum amount. It seems the negative social impact of the legalization of marijuana continues to outweigh its benefits. States may be wise to hold off on opening Pandora’s box of pot legalization before the fuller impact is better known.

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