Friday March 27, 2015
Whoever said that money doesn't grow on trees must not have had any idea how popular cannabis would become. Now, a little more than a year after marijuana legalization, local economies are thriving, crime is falling and the future job market is expanding exponentially. To put it simply, marijuana might well be the miracle cure we've been looking for -- the cure, that is, for our economic woes.
Canna-Businesses create jobs
Though the national unemployment rate has been steadily dropping, it isn't doing so nearly as quickly as states that have a legal cannabis market. In fact, Colorado job growth has increased more than the national average by about one percent in 2014. This growth is largely accounted for by newly-developed cannabis positions such as budtenders, trimmers and edible manufactures, but also includes an increase in construction, engineering and marketing jobs.
But how much of Colorado's job growth was directly related to marijuana? According to ArcView market Research, the industry experienced job growth of around 75 percent last year -- more than any other industry world-wide. The bulk of these jobs -- 90 percent, in fact -- were created with the establishment of recreational facilities.
Job growth is expected to continue in 2015 with an estimated 200,000 new jobs being created in Colorado alone. If this trend keeps up and marijuana legalization moves its way across state lines, then the industry itself could experience a 700 percent job growth within the next five years according to ArcView Market Research. So, while the rest of the country recovers from the 2005 recession at a slow but steady pace, states with legal marijuana are hitting the ground running in an industry that has incredible momentum, and our local job market is all the better for it.
Legal marijuana sales increase tax revenue
In a time when budget cuts are running rampant throughout the nation, Colorado has the opposite problem: excess tax revenue that wasn't accounted for in the budget. The problem with the extra money is that, according to the 1992 Taxpayers' Bill of Rights, money that is not accounted for must be either returned or distributed based on the will of the voters.
What seems like a pretty straight-forward solution, however, has many government officials regretting the bill at all. Both republican and democratic officials are reluctant to redistribute the money, and have proposed that we put it up for yet another vote to decide where the money should go. Republican Senate President Bill Cadman has even suggested writing a separate clause in the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights exempting cannabis-related funds from the bill.
Though not entirely comprised of marijuana taxes, this excess of tax revenue has occurred largely because of marijuana's popularity (and the almost 25 percent tax rate on recreational sales). Had it not been for the cannabis industry, Colorado's economic growth would not have been as substantial and the state would have earned around $55 million less than it would have had marijuana remained illegal for recreational use.
Cannabis legalization helps defund drug cartels
Since 2009, there has been a 25 percent drop in drug-related homicides in Mexico. Though it is difficult to point to a definitive causation, this trend does coincide with marijuana legalization indicating that a likely cause could be the reduced profitability of cannabis.
When marijuana was illegal, drug cartels would make around 35 to 40 percent of their income on the cultivation and distribution of cannabis. They would grow massive amounts of cannabis with little regard for quality, safety or strain characteristics, resulting in seedy, poor-quality weed that would still sell because, well, people like weed.
With marijuana regulation, however, cannabis can finally be grown close to home where it will be meticulously cared for, regulated and priced to sell. This, of course, results in improved quality (and fewer risks) for the consumer, and has managed to drive the cost of Mexican weed down by more than half. As marijuana legalization gains momentum, cartels will be forced out of the marijuana business altogether.
Marijuana legalization protects citizens from costly fines
It's hard to say exactly how damaging a marijuana charge can be; a lot, unfortunately, depends on the ethnicity of the person being charged. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, black people are more than three-and-a-half times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite similar patterns of use compared to the rest of the population.
The results of a marijuana charge can be life-long, including difficulty finding employment, public housing restrictions, loss of a driver's license or the inability to get a mortgage or loan. This, of course, doesn't even account for those who must spend years of their lives behind bars for non-violent marijuana charges (and the children who are forced to grow up without them).
Legalization reduces money spent on law enforcement
The United States spends around $51 billion on the drug war annually, adding up to over $1 trillion since the drug war began four decades ago. Unfortunately, this failed attempt to curb drug use has resulted in more than 1.5 million people being put behind bars for non-violent offenses, many of which were for possession charges only.
In other words, instead of reducing drug use, the Drug War has only made those who use them more vulnerable to the system. And yet, we continue to dole out an excess of money despite an already stressed budget.
If marijuana legalization takes hold across the, we could potentially cut billions from our drug war budget while creating massive amounts of jobs and tax revenue. Our cities will be stronger if they are not plagued with a black market, and our schools will have the funds they need to become better educated about drug use (rather than just scared of it).
No matter how you look at it, the economy of marijuana legalization just makes cents.