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Legalization & Cannabis Reform Trending in the US

Samantha Williams

Marijuana legalization is becoming popular across the United States and around the globe. States throughout the nation are now choosing to decriminalize weed and enact progressive cannabis reform. Will marijuana soon become federally legal?

More states than ever before have legalized or decriminalized marijuana in the year 2019. This trend of cannabis reform is largely thanks to rising public support. According to recent polls, more than 62% of American voters support legalizing cannabis. This number is even higher amongst the younger generation, with 74% of Millennials being in favor of legal weed.

The year 2019 is shaping up to be an impactful year for cannabis reform in the United States. States like New York, Texas, New Mexico, and Hawaii have all decriminalized cannabis this year. Other states, most notably Illinois, have fully legalized and embraced marijuana in all forms. Whether states completely legalize recreational cannabis or simply choose to decriminalize weed, it seems that drug policy in America is finally becoming more lenient. 

How Legalization Affects the Cannabis Industry

The Marijuana Industry Makes a Ton of Green

As marijuana becomes recreationally and medically legalized across the nation, profits and tax revenue soar. The future has never been so bright for the cannabis industry. In 2018, the profits states saw from taxing cannabis was significant. Washington and California alone managed to produce over $300 million from legal cannabis sales.

marijuana legal

The market for marijuana is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. According to The State of the Cannabis Markets, the international cannabis industry has grown a remarkable 36% since 2018. If the legalization trend continues, experts predict the American marijuana market could be worth $66.3 billion by 2025. On a global scale, the cannabis industry is projected to be worth a staggering $14.9 billion by the end of 2019. 

Cannabis Reform Creates Jobs

Sweeping legalization and a skyrocketing demand for marijuana has created a ton of jobs. According to recent reports, over 200,000 full-time employees were hired into the cannabis industry in just one year. This impressive 34% increase highlights the massive and speedy growth of the marijuana market. Between the years of 2017 and 2020, the cannabis industry has an incredible projected job creation rate of 110%.

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Why is Federal Marijuana Legalization Important? 

Americans Need Medical Cannabis

One of the main reasons that states have been legalizing cannabis is to capitalize on tax revenue, but the drive behind cannabis reform is more personal than that. For many people, having access to marijuana is essential to their ability to function without chronic pain or illness. The medical benefits of marijuana are impossible to deny.

If you live with a condition like cancer, HIV/AIDS, insomnia, MS, anxiety, chronic pain, PTSD, or something else, you may benefit from a medical marijuana prescription. Cannabis plants contain natural compounds called cannabinoids that alleviate many of the symptoms associated with these disorders. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD can help treat appetite loss, inflammation, pain, and more. 

Until cannabis is federally legalized, patients may not always have access to the medicine they need. The only form of medical marjiuana permitted on a federal basis is CBD oil derived from hemp plants. This oil contains no THC, the psychoactive property in cannabis that makes you high. While this can absolutely provide medical benefits to many people, the need for complete cannabis amongst the medical community is dire.

Legal Weed Saves Taxpayer Money

States that have yet to legalize marijuana aren’t just missing out on making money, they’re wasting money. Enforcing anti-cannabis laws is extremely expensive for taxpayers. In just a single year, the United States will spend $20 billion on cannabis prohibition. Analysts estimate that ending prohibition would save the United States government over $7 billion each year. As a result, over 300 economists have signed a petition urging the country to end the war against marijuana. 

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Illinois Leads the Nation in Cannabis Reform

Progressive Weed Laws & Clean Slates

Does the state of Illinois come to mind when you think of progressive cannabis reform? Surprisingly, Illinois is leading the way with some of the most favorable marijuana laws in the nation. The state is doing more than just legalizing recreational cannabis, Illinois will also be expunging the criminal records of people with non-violent marijuana convictions. Unlike other states that have passed recreational cannabis through ballot initiatives, Illinois is the first state to legalize by way of state legislature. This legislation will go into effect in 2020.

Illinois made the decision to legalize recreational cannabis and expunge the records of non-violent offenders. For 770,000 Illinois residents with cannabis-related convictions, this legislation offers a clean slate and fresh opportunities. Any costs related to expungement will be paid for by the new tax dollars generated from weed sales. 

“The state of Illinois just made history, legalizing adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric approach in the nation,” Governor Pritzker wrote on his Facebook page. “This will have a transformational impact on our state, creating opportunity in the communities that need it most and giving so many a second chance.”

Illinois’ Booming Cannabis Industry

A major opportunity that cannabis legalization is bringing to Illinois is a booming job market. Analysts predict that the marijuana industry in Illinois could be one of the most lucrative in the nation. To meet the expected high demands, there are plans to license an additional 200 dispensaries throughout the state. Some industry experts predict there could be up to 295 cannabis retailers in Illinois by 2022. These dispensaries need to be staffed, managed, marketed, and supplied, leading to tens of thousands of jobs. Recreational marijuana is expected to bring over $1.6 billion in revenue to Illinois in the course of a single year.

Colorado, America’s First Legal State

Colorado is well known as a 420-friendly state with legal weed. Recreational cannabis is fully legalized in Colorado, meaning any adult 21 or older can possess up to 28 grams of marijuana product. Colorado was the first state in all of the United States to legalize cannabis back in 2014. Tax revenue skyrocketed in the state almost immediately, and the trend to legalize began to sweep the nation.

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It’s not surprising that other states quickly began to legalize and decriminalize weed after seeing the success in Colorado. Since Colorado has legalized cannabis, they’ve seen over $1 billion in revenue. This money has been used to build schools and fund healthcare, law enforcement, and substance abuse programs. 

Slow Progress Passing Marijuana Laws

More states than ever before are listening to their voters and legalizing weed. Even states that have always been staunchly anti-marijuana, like Texas, are decriminalizing cannabis. Despite these many successes, however, there’s still a long way to go before marijuana is federally legalized. 

Along with all the triumphs there have also been failures. Bills advocating for recreational and medical marijuana often fail to pass, or have very limited impact once they do. Overall, 2019 was a great year for pro-cannabis legislation, but progress has ultimately been slow. It seems that federal cannabis legalization in the United States is still a far away dream.

If you enjoyed this article, check out our weed quotes for some thoughtful perspective on marijuana.

The Future of State & Federal Legalization

More states than ever before have legalized or decriminalized cannabis, making the future look bright. Federal legalization certainly seems to be on the way, it’s just a matter of time and votes. While progress may seem slow, it is strong, unstoppable, and unbeatable. People across the nation have made their voices heard and politicians are finally responding. States are taking action, and as a result, many Americans can enjoy legal weed today.

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