On New Years Day 2014, the conservatives all around the US had a collective stroke when the production, sale, possession and use of marijuana was finally legalized in Colorado. In recent history, it could well be argued that no other matter in our otherwise ‘civilized’ society has been the subject of more lies, nonsense and fabrications than the cannabis plant. It makes one question what exactly there is to fear from this wondrous product of the earth?
There are a ton of theories as to why government has so strongly oppressed both the recreational and medicinal use of the plant – from the logging monopolies worrying about losing their business to the superior hemp option; to the cancer research companies going out of business if the true benefits of cannabis are implemented en masse; to the powers that be wanting to keep the minds of the masses closed and distracted so as to avoid any dissention. Personally, all of these theories have a ring of truth to them yet somehow the good folks in Denver managed to get past all that and make it happen.
Amendment 64 – the bill that made this all possible – opponents prophesized that the evil weed was the work of the devil and that the lovely state of Colorado would immediately become a cesspool of crime, sleaziness and drug-induced hysteria. Of course, those with even the smallest inkling of sanity saw the ridiculousness of their sentiments and paid them no mind. Clearly, life as we know it has continued and as you’re about to see, Colorado is actually better off for having legalized this much too often and unfairly demonized plant.
5. Crime Rates Have Fallen – Significantly
The latest data since the legalization of marijuana shows that – gasp! – crime rates have actually fallen. Property crimes (Burglary, Larceny, Theft From A Motor Vehicle, Auto Theft and Arson) dropped by around 14.6% compared to the same period in 2013. Violent crimes (Homicide, Sexual Assault, Robbery, Aggravated Assault) were also down by 2.4%. Now this could all just be coincidence, however let’s be real here – we know that the effects of marijuana tend to overwhelmingly be calming and relaxing, as opposed to the more aggressive reactions elicited from alcohol or other similar drugs. Therefore, it’s not exactly a stretch to conclude that the more widespread availability of weed resulted in more stoned, less aggressive and less criminally motivated people than the year prior. It may not be the direct cause, but it’s highly likely that there’s some correlation there, however it intersects.
Just to show how wrong some of those in power were, let’s take a look at what a couple of these wacky folks had to say. “Expect more crime, more kids using marijuana and pot for sale everywhere,” said Douglas County Sheriff David Weaver in 2012. “I think our entire state will pay the price.” Crikey, was he off the mark with that one.
Gov. John Hickenlooper said “Colorado is known for many great things — marijuana should not be one of them” and that “It sends the wrong message to kids that drugs are OK.” I guess he’s forgetting about the legal tobacco and alcohol that literally cause millions of deaths around the world every year – I wonder what message distributing liver cirrhosis and emphysema via these highly taxable products send to the children? Oh my gosh, won’t somebody think of the children!
4. Tax Revenue Has Increased
Of course, when a new and extraordinarily popular taxable commodity enters the market, one would expect heavy tax revenue increases in line with such an introduction. Based on the $1 million in sales revenue on January 1st alone, state officials predict around $578 million in sales for 2014, along with $67 million in tax revenue – nothing to be sneezed at. And most importantly, this additional revenue will be invested into building schools and ‘fund regulatory efforts’ (whatever that’s supposed to mean), something that not even the extreme right-wingers could paint as a bad thing.
In addition to creating revenue literally from the earth, taxpayers in The Centennial State saved over $60 million on enforcing marijuana prohibition back in 2013 – this figure will rise to around $100 million predicted for the first year. So that means a lazy $167 million will enter the coffers of the state just because some smart people decided to remove decades (or even centuries) of unnecessary fear mongering, rhetoric and prohibition and finally do what’s best for the people. Nice for a change, eh?
3. Less Arrests For Possession – Cops Can Direct Their Attention Elsewhere
OK so let’s be real for a second. In the last decade, Colorado police arrested black people for marijuana possession at more than three times the rate that they arrested white people, even though white folks used marijuana at higher rates. Even worse – the situation is exceptionally bad in Denver, where almost one-third of the people arrested for private adult possession marijuana are black, though black folks account for only 11% of the population. This isn’t entirely surprising, but it’s an extremely important element to this whole issue.
Nationally, the US averages over 750,000 marijuana arrests each year – which works out to be around one arrest every 37 seconds – and almost half of all the arrests for drug use, possession and distribution in the country. Close to 90% of these arrests are just for ‘possession for personal use’, not the sale or the manufacture of the plant. Police in Colorado make a ton more arrests for marijuana possession each year than for all violent crimes combined. Colorado has now (intelligently) removed itself from this extreme waste of time and resources, as well as alleviating life altering criminal justice consequences for those who have had their time wasted by law enforcement, that unfortunately has persistently and continually defined marijuana prohibition.
2. Health Benefits – Yes, Seriously
One question that must be asked is will alcohol use increase in line with marijuana use, as a complement? Or will marijuana become a substitute for alcohol? Or are the two substances completely unrelated? Only time will tell, however if Mary Jane proves to be a substitute for liquor, the healthcare system (particularly in Colorado) will truly see the benefits of this change. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that alcohol results in 2.5 million deaths each year, worldwide, not to mention the additional physical, psychological and social issues associated with it. And we all know that not a single case of a death being directly attributed to and caused by marijuana exists in known human history.
Montana State University’s Journal of Policy Analysis and Management reported a study that suggested marijuana and alcohol are substitutes, especially in the US where the drinking age is 21 and pot use dramatically declines once one reaches that age. Also, medical marijuana availability causes alcohol use (and beer sales) to drop – therefore, the wider the availability of marijuana, the less drinking will occur and in turn the higher the benefits to both individuals and the healthcare system. Cool, right? It seems that people prefer to have their minds opened than thrown back to our neanderthal ancestors.
1. The Public Understanding Of The Benefits Of Marijuana & Hemp Increased
As this writer personally learned from the liner notes of Cypress Hill’s 1993 classic ‘Black Sunday’ album, one acre of hemp can produce four times the amount of paper (for example) than one acre of trees. The real question is what can’t hemp do?
It’s an energy source – hemp’s biomass can be converted into energy to replace nuclear power and all of our existing fossil fuels; it could replace non-biodegradable plastics, with the hemp-based product having ten times the strength as regular plastic; hemp paper can be recycled up to eight times whereas wood pulp paper can only be recycled three times; hemp-based concrete can last for centuries; hemp seeds and oils can be used as extremely nutrient dense food for animals and humans; chemicals in cannabis can be used to treat over 250 illnesses (that we know of at this point), including cancer; and an estimated 50,000 products can be made from hemp, ranging from building composites, cellophane, dynamite, shampoo, textiles, twine and yarn.
The main historical issue stopping all this incredible progress seems to lie with the current big industry – hemp could essentially eradicate their businesses, but if they were smart, they could both save the planet, help all living beings all the while continuing to make a fortune if they just moved on to hemp.
Now that marijuana and hemp are in our faces almost every day, the public discourse should truly open up to intelligent discussions about how to take our planet forward with the widespread utilization and farming of hemp and cannabis. And we all should give credit where it’s due to Colorado, Washington and all the other states (and countries) who have risen above the status quo, taken a stand and ensured that one of the most beneficial plants known to man is easily accessible and available for us all.