Each year there are a few more states considering the possibility of legalizing marijuana. Some states are moving towards creating their own medical cannabis programs; the others are trying to decide whether it would be better for them to legalize recreational weed as well. And there are still states that continue fighting against marijuana legalization as such. Previously, we told you about the possible consequences of recreational cannabis usage for the ordinary users. Today, MJWellness will try to find out what are the possible pros and cons of legalized recreational weed for entire states.
Currently, cannabis is legalized for recreational use in four states: Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. Recreational marijuana users can also stop worrying about being arrested within the borders of the District of Columbia.
Each of these regions has gone a long way before they changed the legal status of the drug. And today, they are still tallyings consequences of the decision: some of them are good, the others are less pleasant. Let us take a closer look at the changes that recreational marijuana legalization brought to each of these states.
Marijuana was fully legalized in Alaska in 2014. In 2015, the local authorities were working on the rules and regulations the legal cannabis market needed. According to these rules, recreational marijuana is available for adults over 21 years of age. Along with using marijuana for recreational purposes, marijuana users got a permission to possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis. Growing weed for personal or commercial use is also allowed, but if an Alaskan wants to grow cannabis, they need to get a license first.
The first visible consequences of marijuana legalization are yet to come because the first legal retail operations with recreational weed in Alaska are going to be performed no sooner than this summer. But according to a study conducted by the Marijuana Policy Group, Alaska may receive more than $20 million in marijuana taxes by 2020.
Colorado is one of the brightest examples of possibilities that legal marijuana industry may give to the nation. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize recreational weed. In 2014, DPA reported a notable decrease in violent crime, not to mention a significant decrease in the number of arrests for marijuana possession. The extra tax revenues were spent on funding schools and improving the local infrastructure. In 2015, marijuana sales in Colorado have almost reached the mark of $1 billion, proving that the legal weed market is one of the most rapidly developing industries in the U.S.
Oregon finally legalized recreational weed last year, allowing adults over 21 years of age to possess and grow weed for personal use without being fined or arrested. Marijuana dispensaries in Oregon started selling marijuana for recreational purposes on Oct. 1, 2015; for the first three months, both medical and recreational weed remained tax-free. Starting from Jan. 1, 2016, recreational cannabis is taxed at a rate of 25%. And only during the first month Oregon collected almost $3.5 million in taxes.
In Washington, marijuana was legalized in 2012. According to the terms of Washington Initiative 502, any person over 21 years of age may use marijuana for recreational purposes and possess up to 1 ounce of weed. In order to start a business related to selling, distributing, or producing marijuana, a person needs to be older than 21 years of age and get a state license. Commercial growing and cultivation of marijuana also require state licenses. And as for growing weed for personal use, in Washington it is allowed only for medical cannabis users.
A report published last year by the Drug Policy Alliance shows that in the first year after making the decision, Washington saw numerous benefits of marijuana legalization. The decrease in violent crime and millions of dollars saved in law enforcement resources are among the most important improvements related to the weed legalization. Furthermore, Washington has collected over $80 million in marijuana tax revenues. This money was used to fund drug education programs, substance abuse prevention programs, community health care services, research, etc. And, despite the fears of the initiative's opponents, the level of youth marijuana use did not increase after the drug's legalization.
In DC, the situation with recreational weed is a bit different from the aforementioned states. Here, adults over 21 can use marijuana for recreational purposes and possess up to 2 ounces of weed, but recreational cultivation and commercial sales are forbidden. So, the only obvious benefit of legal weed for DC citizens is a decrease in arrests for marijuana possession. Will there be a legal market for recreational weed in the District of Columbia? We will see it in the near future.