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A sign supporting marijuana legalization at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza in Eugene, Oregon

The use of cannabis as a recreational drug has been outlawed in many countries for several decades. As a result of long-fought legalization efforts, several countries such as Uruguay and Canada, as well as several states in the US, have legalized the production, sale, possession, and recreational and/or medical usage of cannabis. The broad legalization of cannabis in this fashion can have numerous effects on the economy and society in which it is legalized.[citation needed]

General evidence

There is evidence that ready access to legal cannabis is associated with a number of health harms including increased need for emergency medicine, and increased incidence of cannabis use disorder and road traffic accidents.[1]

Regional evidence


See Cannabis in Canada.

United States

News report from Voice of America about businesses related to cannabis in the United States. Aired 23 September 2015

A 2015 study found that medical marijuana legalization increased use and abuse by those under and over the age of 21.[2] A 2017 study found that frequency of marijuana use by students increased significantly after recreational legalization and that increase was especially large for females and for Black and Hispanic students.[3]

A 2017 study found that the introduction of medical marijuana laws caused a reduction in violent crime in Americans states that border Mexico: "The reduction in crime is strongest for counties close to the border (less than 350 km), and for crimes that relate to drug trafficking. In addition, we find that [medical marijuana laws] in inland states lead to a reduction in crime in the nearest border state. Our results are consistent with the theory that decriminalization of the production and distribution of marijuana leads to a reduction in violent crime in markets that are traditionally controlled by Mexican drug trafficking organisations."[4]

A 2020 study found that junk food sales increased between 3.2 and 4.5 percent in states that had legalized cannabis.[5]

A 2022 study found that legalization had led to a 20% increase in use of cannabis in the US.[6] Pharmaceutical companies had lower returns.[7] Moreover, legalization leads to a decreased perception of cannabis use as "risky" and "potentially harmful". A 2013 study showed that 32.8% of people surveyed in Utah, a state where Marijuana use is illegal, believed that they had a risk of harm from Marijuana consumption, whereas only 18.8% of people surveyed in Washington, a state where adult-use is legal, believed they had a risk of harm.[8]

In 2019, the US gained a total of 1.7 billion dollars in tax revenue due to the legalization of marijuana. In 2021, that number more than doubled to 3.7 billion dollars.[9] The increase in tax revenue being a driving factor in the legalization of marijuana is similar to the effects of the repeal of prohibition. After prohibition was abolished, the percentage of federal government revenue coming from alcohol increased about 7% in the US.[10]

Legalization is anticipated to reduce the resources expended on arrests and prosecution for marijuana-related crimes. A 2007 analysis found that legalization could result in a potential savings of $10.7 billion per year.[11] A 2010 report predicted that full marijuana legalization could save the United States more than $13 billion a year, with $8 billion of that amount resulting from no longer having to enforce prohibition.[12]

The legalization of marijuana may create new job opportunities. The current industry supports nearly 430,000 full-time jobs, however it is projected that that number could rise to over 1.75 million jobs in the near future.[13] With over 100,000 jobs created in 2021, there is about a 33% increase from the previous year. To put that into perspective, there is only a projected 8% increase in jobs in the business and financial sector.[14]


News report by Voice of America about the business effect of cannabis in Colorado, with 700 million dollars in sales

In Colorado, effects since 2014 include increased state revenues,[15] violent crime decreased,[16][17] and an increase in homeless population.[18] One Colorado hospital has received a 15% increase in babies born with THC in their blood.[19]

Since legalization, public health and law enforcement officials in Colorado have grappled with a number of issues, serving as a model for policy problems that come with legalization. Marijuana-related hospital visits have nearly doubled between 2011, prior to legalization, and 2014.[20] Top public health administrators in Colorado have cited the increased potency of today's infused products, often referred to as "edibles", as a cause for concern. They have also highlighted the risk that edibles pose to children, as they are often undistinguishable from ordinary foods once they are removed from their packaging.[21] Youth usage has also been a major aspect of the debate surrounding marijuana legalization and a concern for state officials. Overall youth usage rates have increased, although not enough to be deemed statistically significant.[22] Looking at students in the eighth, tenth, and twelfth grades, a survey study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that usage rates had not increased among any of the different age groups in Colorado, although statistically significant increases in usage rates amongst eighth and tenth graders were reported in Washington.[23]


Oregon legalized cannabis in November 2014. Effects have included an increase in cannabis-related calls to the Oregon state poison center,[24] an increase in perception among youth that marijuana use is harmful,[24] a decrease in arrest rates for cannabis related offenses,[24] stores sold $250 million in cannabis products which resulted in $70 million in state tax revenue (higher than a predicted $36 million in revenue),[25] 10% decrease in violent crime, and 13% drop in murder rate.[25]

Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. legalized cannabis in 2015. Cannabis possession arrests decreased 98% from 2014 to 2015 and all cannabis offenses dropped by 85%.[26]


Effects of cannabis legalization in Uruguay since 2013 include other countries in the region loosening laws concerning cannabis and lower costs of illegal cannabis.[27] The percentage of female prisoners has fallen.[28]

See also

  • Cannabis rights
  • Drug liberalization
  • Drug Policy Alliance
  • Green rush
  • Harm reduction
  • Legality of cannabis
  • Legality of the War on Drugs
  • National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
  • References

    1. ^ Cantor N, Silverman M, Gaudreault A, Hutton B, Brown C, Elton-Marshall T, Imtiaz S, Sikora L, Tanuseputro P, Myran DT (April 2024). "The association between physical availability of cannabis retail outlets and frequent cannabis use and related health harms: a systematic review". Lancet Reg Health Am. 32: 100708. doi:10.1016/j.lana.2024.100708. PMC 10937151. PMID 38486811.
    2. ^ Pacula, Rosalie L.; Powell, David; Heaton, Paul; Sevigny, Eric L. (2015). "Assessing the Effects of Medical Marijuana Laws on Marijuana Use: The Devil is in the Details". Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 34 (1). Wiley: 7–31. doi:10.1002/pam.21804. eISSN 1520-6688. PMC 4315233. PMID 25558490.
    3. ^ Miller, Austin M.; Rosenman, Robert; Cowan, Benjamin W. (December 2017). "Recreational marijuana legalization and college student use: Early evidence". SSM - Population Health. 3. Elsevier: 649–657. doi:10.1016/j.ssmph.2017.08.001. ISSN 2352-8273. PMC 5769109. PMID 29349253.
    4. ^ Gavrilova, Evelina; Kamada, Takuma; Zoutman, Floris (2017). "Is Legal Pot Crippling Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations? The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on US Crime". The Economic Journal. 129 (617): 375–407. doi:10.1111/ecoj.12521. hdl:11250/274521. ISSN 1468-0297.
    5. ^ Baggio, Michele; Chong, Alberto (2020-12-01). "Recreational marijuana laws and junk food consumption". Economics & Human Biology. 39: 100922. doi:10.1016/j.ehb.2020.100922. ISSN 1570-677X. PMID 32992092. S2CID 222146085.
    6. ^ "Legalizing recreational cannabis in the U.S. has increased frequency of use by 20%". EurekAlert!. Retrieved 2022-09-12.
    7. ^ Bednarek, Ziemowit; Doremus, Jacqueline M.; Stith, Sarah S. (2022-08-31). "U.S. cannabis laws projected to cost generic and brand pharmaceutical firms billions". PLOS ONE. 17 (8): e0272492. Bibcode:2022PLoSO..1772492B. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0272492. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 9432746. PMID 36044436.
    8. ^ Slawek, Deepika E.; Curtis, Susanna A.; Arnsten, Julia H.; Cunningham, Chinazo O. (January 2022). "Clinical Approaches to Cannabis". Medical Clinics of North America. 106 (1): 131–152. doi:10.1016/j.mcna.2021.08.004. ISSN 0025-7125. PMC 8651261. PMID 34823727.
    9. ^ "The Economic Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana". Investopedia. Retrieved 2023-11-27.
    10. ^ Boudreaux, Donald J. (2008-01-01). "Alcohol, Prohibition, and the Revenuers | Donald J. Boudreaux". fee.org. Retrieved 2023-11-27.
    11. ^ Gettman, Jon (2007). "Lost Taxes and Other Costs of Marijuana Laws" (PDF). Bulletin of Cannabis Reform. 4. Retrieved 27 November 2023.
    12. ^ Miron, Jeffrey A. "The Budgetary Implications of Drug Prohibition" (PDF). Harvard University Department of Economics. Retrieved 27 November 2023.
    13. ^ Herrington, A. J. "New Cannabis Jobs Report Reveals Marijuana Industry's Explosive Employment Growth". Forbes. Retrieved 2023-11-27.
    14. ^ Herrington, A. J. "New Cannabis Jobs Report Reveals Marijuana Industry's Explosive Employment Growth". Forbes. Retrieved 2023-11-27.
    15. ^ "The Unexpected Side Effects of Legalizing Weed". Newsweek. 6 June 2015. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
    16. ^ Reporter, Matt Ferner National; Post, The Huffington (17 July 2014). "If Legal Marijuana Was Supposed To Cause More Crime, It's Not Doing A Very Good Job". Huffington Post. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
    17. ^ Healy, Jack (1 June 2014). "After 5 Months of Sales, Colorado Sees the Downside of a Legal High". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
    18. ^ Gurman, Sadie (24 December 2014). "Why legal marijuana swells Denver's homeless population". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
    19. ^ "The Pot Vote". CBS News.
    20. ^ "The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact" (PDF). Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
    21. ^ Miller, Joshua (February 22, 2016). "From Colorado: Glimpse of Life After Marijuana". Boston Globe.
    22. ^ Ingraham, Christopher (2016-10-13). "Here's how legal pot changed Colorado and Washington". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
    23. ^ Cerdá, Magdalena; Wall, Melanie; Feng, Tianshu; Keyes, Katherine M.; Sarvet, Aaron; Schulenberg, John; O’Malley, Patrick M.; Pacula, Rosalie Liccardo; Galea, Sandro (2017-02-01). "Association of State Recreational Marijuana Laws With Adolescent Marijuana Use". JAMA Pediatrics. 171 (2): 142–149. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.3624. ISSN 2168-6203. PMC 5365078. PMID 28027345.
    24. ^ a b c https://public.health.oregon.gov/PreventionWellness/marijuana/Documents/oha-8509-marijuana-report.pdf [bare URL PDF]
    25. ^ a b Swanberg, Conor (7 July 2015). "One Year Later, Here Are the Effects Legalizing Marijuana Has Had in Washington State". Archived from the original on 28 October 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
    26. ^ "Opinion | on D.C.'s one-year anniversary with legalized marijuana, work remains". The Washington Post.
    27. ^ "Uruguay's Year In Marijuana: 3 Successes, 3 Burning Questions - NBC News". NBC News. 7 January 2015. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
    28. ^ "Uruguay marijuana legalization one year later". 26 March 2015. Retrieved 29 October 2016.

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