States across the U.S. are legalizing marijuana for both medical and recreational use. It follows and perhaps also predicts a trend around the world, which begins to acknowledge the legitimate uses for and relatively low recreational risk of marijuana. Similarly, if you do a quick web search of “medical marijuana Canada,” you’ll see that marijuana can be prescribed in Canada (although recreational use is still prohibited). Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, has even committed to legalizing marijuana for personal use as well, although that promise has not yet been realized.
Although many politicians may feel pressured by their supporters to either support or oppose the legalization of marijuana, there are some solid economic reasons for legalizing the drug. Moral issues aside, legalizing weed is good for the financial health of states and countries. Here are a few reasons why.
Saving on prison and enforcement costs
To begin with, legalizing marijuana saves money. Once marijuana is legal, that means there is no longer any need to imprison citizens for weed possession or sale, nor is there any reason to spend police resources on monitoring marijuana sales. Naturally, this can save governments tremendous amounts of money. Particularly in the U.S., it is notoriously expensive to keep people in prison, and those costs are nearly impossible to justify when the crime was small or nonviolent. Once weed is legalized, a large portion of the nonviolent prison population can be released (or simply not be arrested in the first place), saving on the costs of their court fees and their prison fees. And, since police no longer need to be enforcing marijuana laws, departments can either cut their manpower (and save money) or reallocate their manpower to more necessary areas (and spend the same amount of money with improved service).
Marijuana legalization doesn’t just save money for governments, though. It also makes money. Once weed is legalized, it becomes an entirely new economic subsection that can be both regulated and taxed.
For instance, governments can institute laws that marijuana growers and distributors must have permits. Permits of this type, allowing a business to operate legally, typically cost money. That money goes to the government, increasing governmental resources while simultaneously boosting the legitimacy and the size of the weed economy. In addition, once weed is legal, sales can be taxed. This, too, increases governmental revenue.
Creating (legal) jobs
And, finally, legalizing marijuana creates a whole new swath of (legal) jobs. As the customer base grows, growers and distributors can expand their businesses and hire more employees. Those employees, as well as their employers, are also part of a legitimate business system, which means they can receive benefits, file for worker’s compensation, and pay their taxes. All of this is incredibly beneficial not only to the local government, but also to the citizens themselves.
These are just a few of the economic benefits that come alongside legalizing marijuana — benefits that a number of states and countries are already taking advantage of. And, of course, this doesn’t include the health benefits that marijuana use can have for individuals suffering from a number of different illnesses and ailments. With all of these benefits in mind, it becomes a lot clearer why some politicians support legalization with such enthusiasm.