Pot lovers proclaim that legalizing weed has massive benefits, while those against it accuse it of increasing drug abuse and crime rates. Now, it seems neither group is right. According to researchers from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Western Carolina University, and Harvard University, liberal cannabis laws do not have much impact at all.
In fact, legalizing marijuana has had ‘minimal impact’ on usage rates. The study found that it had just as little effect on other drug use, alcohol use, or violent crime rates. Published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the paper based its findings on data gathered by Monitoring the Future, which conducts annual surveys of high-school seniors for ongoing research into American youth that started in 1975.
Since the study began, the nation has become friendlier toward marijuana use. Now, 45 states, including the District of Columbia, have laxer cannabis laws than they did back in 1975. The majority of these states have either legalized use for medical reasons or decriminalized possession. Only eight states currently allow the use of marijuana for recreational purposes, including the District of Columbia.
Just last week, an amendment protecting medical marijuana patients was blocked by the U.S. House Rules committee, and over the last few months, the federal government, or Attorney General Jeff Sessions specifically, appears overly eager to persecute individuals and companies involved in the legal marijuana industry in states that permit its use either medically or recreationally.
However, Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, announced on Wednesday that he intends introducing a bill that will remove barriers preventing researchers from studying cannabis. Back in June, several senators introduced a bill to end prohibition of medical marijuana at the federal level. This study’s authors warned that results are not necessarily indicative of weed itself.
Because ganja use is widespread already, despite its legality, the effect of legalization appears limited at best. Additionally, the authors note that, in states with liberal laws, enforcement may already have been lax around pot. They wrote, “Our results do suggest that, given current attitudes and enforcement toward marijuana, further liberalization seems unlikely to have dramatic effects in any direction.”
Even so, liberal weed laws do have some effect. Researchers gave a lengthy account of them. Most were extremely positive. For example, relaxed pot laws seem to reduce cocaine and heroin use among teenagers and young adults. Its regulatory environment has made other narcotics appear riskier, such as salvia and similar drugs.
Furthermore, the scientists found fewer teens reporting illnesses in states with relaxed marijuana laws, as well as significantly less schoolyard fighting. However, not all results were positive. There is a clear link between legalization of cannabis and an increase in the supply and use of psychedelic drugs, barbiturates, and amphetamines. There are also higher rates of petty crime, such as shoplifting.
Other scientists conducting other research into marijuana and its liberalization report similar mixed findings. A study published back in 2014 by JAMA Internal Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal, found fatalities from opioid overdoses declining rapidly in all states with some form of medical marijuana law. In fact, they are 25 percent lower than in states still prohibiting weed and dropping still.
Additional study has provided evidence that cannabis and its derivatives, such as cannabinoids like THC and cannabidiol, effectively treat a range of conditions, including chronic pain, epilepsy, chemotherapy-associated nausea and loss of appetite, as well as many other ailments. However, there is also data showing other problems with legalization.
Liberalizing marijuana has led to higher hospitalization rates and traffic deaths. For example, in the year after Washington State legalization recreational pot, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety claims that traffic fatalities more than doubled because of drivers climbing behind the wheel high. At least this study proves it is not responsible for causing more drunk drivers on the road, as well.