There has been mass coverage centered around the outcome of the 2020 election year concerning the presidential seat and the importance of voting on measures that effect the outcome of your day to day living in the United States. Although covering things like the presidential race are important it is also good to note multiple ballot measures that were proposed this year in states such as Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Ballot measures like Question 1, which was proposed in New Jersey gave the people the choice on whether they believed Cannabis legalization was a step forward for their state that they reside in. Of course, with looking at the way cannabis legalization movements have grown across the country it was no surprise at all that states like New Jersey, which proposed ballot measure concerning recreational cannabis voted in favor of.
Recreational cannabis in the United States, although a movement that seems to gain momentum each year has had to travel far from previous history to get to this point. When you discuss the origins of cannabis reform in the United States you travel back to the mid 1970s when the beginning of decriminalization began to appear in states such as Oregon and Alaska, but Alaska would then go to re-criminalize again at the beginning of the 1990s. Although fast tracking to the 90s brings re-criminalization in Alaska it also brings the beginning of medical cannabis legalization, starting with California and Oregon. America began to see recreational cannabis in 2012 with states like Colorado and Washington who were then followed by the majority of the states across the country as well as more states decriminalizing. In 2014 Alaska and Oregon legalize recreational cannabis followed by California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts in 2016. 2018 though 2019 saw the legalization of recreational cannabis in states such as Vermont, Michigan and Illinois. And lastly, in 2020 we see recreational cannabis legalization in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota.
Although it is important to look at the history and growth of cannabis reform in the country, what could be even more important if not equally would be the possible effect it has had on key factors in day to day living in America such as the economy and public safety. For economic impact overall lets look at recent data from states such as: Nevada, Alaska, and Oregon which vary in population and demographic. Up to now marijuana sales in the 2020 fiscal year have brought Alaska $24,540,009.00 in State tax revenue, Oregon $133,150,349.00 in State tax revenue, and Nevada $110,393,504.00 in State tax revenue. When considering tax revenue on top of job growth brought by businesses that are generating these sales it would make sense to agree that the legalization of cannabis for recreational use can create a very positive economic impact.
But what about public safety? The well being of citizens across the country can be seen as more important if not equally and at first glance legalizing cannabis can put users and those around them at risk. To assess impact on safety and quality of life it is important to look at how legalization can affect the country's crime rate as well as it's youth. Under age/illegal marijuana use has been a concern in most parents and legalizing cannabis could worry some that underage use will only rise with doing so. But according to a national survey, marijuana use in adolescents appear to trend downwards despite states across the country legalizing recreational use. Although youth safety is helpful for preventing crime and lower quality of life in the years to come, it is important to asses crime and quality life in the present. Crime across America comes in many forms, but most could agree that its most devastating form is violent crime. Raising the quality of life for neighborhoods across the country relies on law enforcement being able to stop violent crime. According to page 87 of a report by the National Office of Justice Programs, Violent crime clearance rates have trended downward in Washington since legalization.
All and all given the evidence and outcomes there are plenty of reason to be excited for the future of cannabis in America regardless of initial reaction. Marijuana use and culture have been a movement fighting for momentum in the United States since the mid 1970s and gaining traction the past two decades towards recreational legalization. When looking at the benefits that legalization has already brought and aiming to bring to neighborhoods across the country it can be agreed that voting on marijuana legislation is as an equal matter as voting on our elected officials.