Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, and Alaska: currently, these are the states that allow the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. This number of states increases exponentially when discussing the legality of medical marijuana and cannabis; twenty more states, not including the 8 aforementioned, have passed legislation allowing for the use of the drug.
The reasons behind this decision are obvious, though often controversial. The counterargument to the legalization of weed frequently stems from an uninformed conviction that cannabis is detrimental to personal health and safety. In a 2012 review of marijuana research published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, it was concluded that though ingesting cannabis causes significant changes in short-term physical behavior, impairing memory and concentration, there are likely no long-term effects from regular consumption of the drug.
Studies have also shown that legalization would not result in a significant increase in use. “Science and government have learned a great deal, for example, about how to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors,” the Times wrote in an article on marijuana’s effects. “There is already some early evidence that regulation would also help combat teen marijuana use, which fell after Colorado began broadly regulating medical marijuana in 2010.”
Prohibition also has serious economic determinants. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 49.5% of all drug-violation arrests are connected to marijuana, meaning that half of the population in prison for substance abuse is incarcerated due to marijuana-related crimes. According to the Urban Institute Justice Policy Center, the yearly cost for an inmate in a minimum security prison is $21,006, with the average prison sentence for inmates incarcerated for marijuana abuse being 36.8 months. With 757,969 individuals incarcerated for marijuana abuse in 2011 according to public FBI statistics, each costing $21,006 a year, the price to incarcerate every person in the United States linked to a marijuana related crime is $15,921,896,814 yearly and $44 billion over more than 30 years.