Marijuana has been illegal in California for quite a long time due to its categorization under schedule one of the drug enforcement administration. However, California voters in the recent past approved Proposition 64, making it legal. The move came six years later after a similar measure was narrowly rejected. It is a quite a big deal that the state fully legalized marijuana, just like Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon before it. The legalization is expected to come along with benefits and challenges. The paper analyses the benefits of the legalization of recreational marijuana on the state of California by looking at the impacts of such legalizations in the state of Washington, Colorado, and Alaska
Improvement in the Economy of California
One of the advantages accruing to any state from the legalization of Marijuana is the growth in the economy. The State of Colorado, for example, has had significant economic benefits since its legalization of marijuana. The Marijuana Policy Group (MPG) notes from its research, that the jobs created as a result of the legalization of marijuana rose to about 18,000 a move that saw the state of Colorado raise $ 2.4 million (Ingraham, n.p). The revenues raised in Washington further hit $83 million, an amount that was put in the running of state activities. Alaska stands to make $5.1 million and $19.2 million from the sales tax arising due to the sales (Ingraham, n.p). By legalizing marijuana, California is going to experience an increase in its tax revenue. It being the sixth largest economy in the world only outdone by the UK, China, Japan, Germany and the USA (as a whole) legalization means billions of dollars for the economy thus strengthening it the more. The legalization has introduced two specific taxes which are the cultivation tax and the retail tax. The taxes are expected to raise the revenues in California. The sales revenue accruing from marijuana is further estimated to go a long way in creating about 81000 job placements to the residents of California (Ingraham, n.p). Criminalizing marijuana makes it untaxable, yet it forms part of the underground economy due to its availability in the black market. People benefit from this business without taxation thus depriving the state revenue. The taxes to be charged on the drug will realize an increase in the state revenue and a high tax will discourage trade in the drug.
Reduction in Crime Level and Channeling of the Police Manpower to Other Activities
The state of California is likely to witness a decrease in the crime rates as a lot of crimes arise from the abuse of marijuana. States that legalized marijuana have experienced a decrease in arrests related to marijuana. The state of Colorado had a decline in the arrests by 46% between 2012 and 2014.Washington witnessed a reductions in cases presented to the courts concerning marijuana to a larger margin of 98 percent which is incredible .Such reduction margins were also witnessed in Alaska, where between the year 2013 and 2015, arrests from marijuana crimes dropped by 59 percent. California is, therefore, likely to experience a decrease in marijuana-related arrests and marijuana court filings. Research from FBI crime data found out that legalization of marijuana does not result in an increase in crime rate. There was in fact evidence of decreasing rates for some violent crimes such as homicide and assault. The move taken by California will further change the mindsets of the concerned officers to concentrate more on solving other public health issues instead of petty arrests.
Legalization of Marijuana in California Will Not At All Lead To a Lot of Youths Abusing It
It is unlikely that the legalization of marijuana in California will encourage many youths to abuse the drugs. The surveys conducted statewide in Colorado, Washington, and Alaska did not find any significant increase in the use of marijuana among the youth post-legalization. This can be attributed to reduced access where marijuana is moved from the streets to licensed retailers. Some researchers refer to it as a change in the forbidden fruit effect. Californias legalization of marijuana is, therefore, likely to see a decline in its use among the youth. The availability of marijuana in retail will lead to a decrease in its availability in the streets where it is illegally sold to even youths who are under age 21.In the states of Alaska, Washington, and Colorado, there have not been reported any serious cases of accidents arising due to the legalization of marijuana and therefore, the state of California has taken the right direction.
Shift of Focus from Petty Crimes to Serious Crimes
The Legalization of marijuana in California means more serious work for the police force whereby they will be able to focus on more serious crimes rather than going after marijuana users and street peddlers. Resources and courts time previously used in handling petty marijuana cases which have been on the rise recently will be channeled to much more serious cases.
The Money Raised From the Legal Sale of Marijuana Could Be Used In the Campaign against Drugs
California may use the opportunity of the legalization of marijuana to focus on preventing drug abuse. A good inference can be made to the state of Washington which from its $ 83 million raised, several rehabilitation and sensitization programs on drug abuse were initiated. The revenue California expects to raise from taxes arising from the sale and growth of marijuana could be put to similar practices. Alaska has also had its revenue from marijuana channeled to the Department of Corrections Substance Abuse Treatment Program ($700,000). The Department of Health and Social services Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery Grants received $1million, Department of Public Safetys Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, $1million and Community Residential Centers $300,000.California could follow the example of Alaska and Washington by using revenue raised from marijuana taxes to better its health care sector and fund its research and civic education concerning marijuana.
Decline in Offenses Related To Abuse of Marijuana
Marijuana offenses are expected to decline as all categories of marijuana law violations and marijuana-related convictions will decline. The same has been noted for Washington where low-level marijuana offenses have gone down by 98% for adults of age 21 and above.
Reduction in the Level of Drunk Driving As Many People Will Shift From Alcohol Abuse to Marijuana Which Is Less Harmful
Legalization of marijuana leads to a decrease in drunk driving, thus a decrease in car crush deaths. Research in the United States found out that traffic death in states where medical marijuana was legalized declined by 9%.This was largely pegged on a decline in drunk driving. On the road, marijuana tends to be a secondary risk than alcohol, as seen from studies of fatal accidents. Car crush deaths are likely to be on a decline with the legalization of marijuana in California. The decline is pegged on the fact that there is a likely shift from the abuse of alcohol which is more harmful to the less risky marijuana.
Marijuana Has Medicinal Value Compared To Other Drugs
Unlike alcohol, marijuana has medicinal value in which the state of California can tap. The proponents of marijuana legalization have argued that mood disorders and depression can be cured through marijuana intake. The proponents further argue that it reduces pain and for this reason, can be used as an anesthesia. It is also a safer alternative to alcohol due to its relaxing benefits during leisure. It suppresses violence while alcohol aggravates it. California residents, therefore, have an advantage of accessing marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Reduced Deaths from Opiates
California is also likely to experience fewer deaths from opiates. Medical marijuana appears to be a safer alternative to prescription opiates. JAMA Internal Medicine published a new study which found out that marijuana states have fewer opioid overdose than states where marijuana is illegal. In states where marijuana is legalized, overdose deaths from opioids decreased by an average of 20% after one year, 25% after two years and up to 33% by the fifth and sixth year.
Reduction in Suicide Rates
Californias number of suicides in young men is likely to decrease with the legalization of marijuana. The American Journal of Public Health has published a study carried out by one MacPherson Dieter indicating that legalization of marijuana leads to a clear reduction in suicide rates among men. The research used data from the National Vital Statistics System between 1990 and 2007 to examine the effect of legalizing marijuana and suicide rates. Overall, legalized marijuana was seen to lead to a 10.8% reduction among men in their 20s and 9.8% for men in 30s.
The Challenges to Be Faced By the State Of California
The legalization of marijuana will also pose significant challenges to California as experienced by states that have legalized its use before. In fatal crushes, drivers will be more likely to be under the influence of marijuana. For example, in Colorado, the law enforcement has had a challenge of detecting a driver who is under the influence of marijuana. This is because its impairment cannot be measured through blood tests like alcohol. There exists limited data for determining the impact of legalized marijuana on crime and safety which is quite a significant problem.
California is also likely to face challenges in eradicating the marijuana black market. Elimination of corner cartels drug dealers and keeping drug cartels out of the legal drug game is not easy, according to The Washington Post. The law enforcement agencies should however be cautioned that should the levels of taxation exceed the ordinary scale, the illegal drug barrons may choose to continue with the illegal business . Currently, marijuana states have set their tax at about 30% or more, and this results in the nagging black-market problem. California being a new marijuana state ought to consider a different approach.
In conclusion, marijuana legalization will have more benefits to the people of California than detriments. The move will see the state expand its economy and handle health issues arising from the intake of the herb as it will be at the disposal of the public. Further, the legalization is a first step towards eradicating the marijuana black market and in its place improve the economy by charging tax on the legal sales. In addition, there is likely to be a reduction in the levels of crimes in the US as there will be a shift from arrests of petty marijuana cases to the detention of dangerous offenders. While several problems are likely to be witnessed such as resistance from religious groups, illegal sales and so on, the benefits outweigh the challenges.