The Diffusion of Marijuana into American Culture 

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The use and reference of marijuana in society has evolved through the decades, serving as inspiration for Dr. Dre’s critically acclaimed “The Chronic” to more recent times, such as the depiction of Pablo Escobar in Netflix’s hit drama “Narcos”. Marijuana has been a prominent topic, not just socially, but economically as well. Drug money single handedly saved the world from the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. As worthless mortgages and widespread distrust haunted banks, lending froze, housing prices dipped below 31.8%, and unemployment rates skyrocketed, the liquid assets of illegal drug cartels became an unlikely deus ex machina, keeping cash cycling through the economy (Amadeo). The underground marijuana industry is one of the most profitable illegal trades to date, bringing in more than $45 billion in 2016 (Yakowicz). This stands to prove that marijuana is not the evasive public enemy society often makes it out to be. It is vital that Americans take advantage of the possibilities in order to guarantee a better America for tomorrow. The Federal Government should legalize both recreational and medical marijuana use on a national level because of its imposing economic benefits, reduction in underground / gang related crime, and treatment of various medical conditions. This paper will take a look at the pros that legalization could entail for the United States and briefly refute some of the common misconceptions with marijuana use.

Marijuana use isn’t going anywhere. Whether the use is recreational or for medicinal purposes, statistics show an overwhelming year to year increase. The saying, “money makes the world go round” is widely debated phrase between those with humanitarian beliefs and cynics with a materialistic view on the world. However, for the sake of this paper, that statement will be considered true. Every year, billions of dollars are funneled into the pockets of illegal cartel kingpins whose wealth is poured back into the origin economies of those foreign nations such as Mexico and Colombia. If American politicians were able to let go of the ancient stigmas from Richard Nixons “War on Drugs” campaign, and instead looked at the overwhelming data on supporting legalized marijuana use – Americans could funnel that money back into the American economy.

The main argument advocating for the legalization of marijuana stems from the imposing tax benefits sales could bring to local and federal governments. States that have legalized recreational marijuana use have seen direct economic growth. Because marijuana use is not declining anytime soon, they can be taxed at a higher rate than normal sales – allowing governments to prosper from their constituent’s cannabis use. Colorado was one of the first states to break away from the status quo and legalize recreational use. 2014, Colorado’s first year of legalized sales, saw sales numbers rise to $213,414,440 (Goltz). According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, 2014 brought in $67,594,323 in tax revenue across medical, recreational, licenses, and tax fees. In the years since its legalization, Colorado has seen their revenue from marijuana tax more than triple. So far in the 2018 calendar year, revenue has surpassed $223,300,000 (“Marijuana Tax Data”). However, Colorado is not the only state benefitting, Washington State had sales reach $257 million in 2015. Again, with year over year increases (Goltz). Legalization on a federal level would bring in billions of dollars of revenue to governments nationwide.

Furthermore, the cost burden of standing on the sidelines to legalization goes far beyond the free revenue it could bring. In states where use is not legal, governments are wasting tax payer dollars in order to criminalize marijuana use. The world average for marijuana consumption ranges from 2.8-4.5%, with the United States and Canada being the biggest contributors (“Ducatti Flister”). Between 2001 to 2010 cops arrested over seven million citizens for possession according to the ACLU. Averaging, one arrest every 37 seconds in 2010. Worse of all those statistics contributed to states wasting more than $3,616,969,972 enforcing state marijuana laws (“Marijuana Arrest by the Numbers”). All the while, the underground drug industry has been profiting and booming, bringing more crime into the streets. The current system cycles a downward spiral, government funds are misappropriated criminalizing marijuana use and in turn take away resources that could be used to fight real crimes and even target the underground drug industry at its root.

One of the most debated issues on this topic is the debate on crime. Many anti-legalization prohibitionists believe that introducing more drugs into communities will lead to increased crime in those neighborhoods. However, data reveals that that is not the case. A group from the University of Bologna in Italy recently publishes a Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization. In this they studied the rate at which rape and property crimes were committed prior to recreational marijuana legislation and after legislation had passed in Washington State. In Washington, rape dropped between 15% and 30%; property crimes declined on average 15%. They also saw between 13% and 22% drop in theft (Dragone). They go on to further explain that while marijuana use increased, there was an inverse effect on the consumption of other substances. The journal highlights a 2% decrease in other illegal substances and a 4% decrease in alcohol consumption. This is attributed to the fact that marijuana and other substances act as substitutes to each other.

While some people may argue the link between marijuana use and crime has a weak link – there is evidence to correlate the data. There are a few key aspects that support the correlation. First and foremost, marijuana use produces various side effects that are calming and relaxing. This decreases the likelihood that one will engage in violent activities. This tied in with the fact that marijuana is used as a substitute for other substances, such as alcohol which is known to increase the likelihood of engaging in violent behavior, constitutes a decrease in crime.

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The diffusion of Marijuana into American Culture . (2022, Sep 30). Retrieved July 14, 2024 , from

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