National Honesty Day is April 30, so let’s do some good old-fashioned truthing, people.
Cannabis has made some tremendous strides in the last decade or so, both in terms of legislative reform and public acceptance, but there’s still much left to accomplish before weed can be destigmatized and take its rightful place among the rest of the non-addictive remedies it yearns to rejoin in classification.
For far too long, marijuana has been guilty by association. It’s placed among the most prolific killers in the drug realm, relegated to the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Schedule I, in which substances are considered to have zero medicinal value and receive no funding for further research to determine their possible therapeutic benefits.
Unfortunately, without meaningful federally backed research into the way cannabinoids can help us heal, we’re left to make progress at the state level — pushing legalization forward and uncovering new benefits along the way, while boosting the economy with a new tax revenue stream. This new money would be taken directly out of the pockets of the black market overlords that have driven the industry for a half-century without adding anything meaningful to the culture or society as a whole.
In Colorado, where voters passed Amendment 64 in 2012 to legalize adult-use marijuana in 2014, three separate taxes are collected on each legal retail marijuana sale. The following infographic displays where the proceeds from those tax collections are dispersed.
The largest chunk is earmarked for education and public health, with an allotment for the Department of Human Services following closely behind, using the monetary benefits of cannabis legalization to aid in the fight against substance abuse and mental health issues across the state. Marijuana taxes, though, amount to less than 2 percent of Colorado’s total education budget.
In Nevada, where the legal retail cannabis market has been open since July 2017, the state collected more than $30 million for state coffers in its first six months through a 25 percent total tax on weed sales — 15 percent on wholesale transactions and 10 percent on the consumers’ retail purchases.
Nevada has projected more than $20 million will be funneled annually to the state’s Distributive School Account, which doles out resources to school districts in need of assistance using a sliding scale based on enrollment and local revenue.
While the plant’s vast healing properties should be reason enough to open up legal access, many states have been swayed towards ending prohibition for its equally substantial earning potential.
Whatever gets it legalized, I guess.
If kids getting piles of cash for a more robust education doesn’t move the needle, how about lower crime rates?
President Donald Trump continually proposes a monstrous border wall to choke out illegal drug smuggling and violent crime, but studies show the answer could be cannabis legalization as a deterrent.
States bordering Mexico that legalized the plant for medical purposes saw violent crime rates decrease by roughly 13 percent. California, specifically, saw homicides related to drug trade fall by more than 40 percent. Giving Mexican growers alternative outlets for their crops, such as legal dispensaries, allows them to avoid dealing with the cartels that have controlled the market until recently.
It’s important to note that even with expanded legalization in America, many states still have wildly disproportionate arrest rates to answer for when it comes to race. States such as New York have put on a front of progress, while still arresting mostly people of color for something that’s supposedly decriminalized.
Read: New York City Won’t Stop Using the Guise of Weed Arrests to Discriminate Against People of Color
While federal cannabis prohibition has prevented research on a large scale, small pockets of innovation have persisted, thanks to brave researchers and the thirst for answers to one of society’s most pressing issues: how to treat chronic and acute pain without subjecting patients to possible opioid addiction and its barrage of potentially fatal side effects.
Dr. James Feeney, a top trauma surgeon at Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, told Marijuana.com in an interview, “the federal government refuses to schedule marijuana as Schedule II because they say, ‘Well there’s no data for any efficacy and because there’s no data, we won’t change the schedule.’
Feeney added,“I always say we want to research it and get the data and they say, ‘You can’t, it’s schedule one.’ So they use that vicious cycle and I am reasonably sure that Big Pharma is at least part of that decision.”
Feeney is conducting a groundbreaking study exploring marijuana’s efficacy in the treatment of broken ribs, rather than the traditional opioid treatment schedule.
To keep it blunt: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire — and there’s a wildfire of innovation, healing, and progress being made in the cannabis industry. Be honest with yourselves about the need for federal legalization, lawmakers, if for no other reason than it being National Honesty Day.