Boice: It’s time to finally legalize marijuana


Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/TNS

Brian Kirkland, assistant cultivator tends to plants in flowering room at the Bedford Grow, a marijuana cultivation facility in Bedford Park on Friday March 29, 2019.

Lilli Boice, Op-Ed Contributor

In the United States, medical marijuana is legal in 33 states, and recreational marijuana in 10. However, the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana and decriminalization of marijuana is moving very slowly. Considering that cannabis is a less harmful substance than alcohol and tobacco and has medicinal benefits, isn’t it time for nationwide legalization on both the medical and recreational level?

I believe it is.

Obviously, legalizing marijuana is more difficult than simply passing a law saying so. For example, with the continued legalization of marijuana comes the issue of releasing those jailed for cannabis possession. Many of our nation’s laws specifically put black individuals at a significantly higher risk of arrests and incarceration; white people are five times less likely to be jailed than their black counterparts due to the fact that institutions like law enforcement are and have always been racist. When it comes to marijuana, black people are almost four times as likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana as white people, despite similar levels of usage.

If the nation were to legalize marijuana, two things could happen. If black people currently in jail for marijuana possession were to be released, the U.S. would save approximately $3.6 billion spent annually on cannabis-related arrests. Continuing to allow incarcerated black individuals to suffer while white people reap the benefits of legalized marijuana is incredibly racist and inexcusable, and it needs to end now.

In addition to saving money, states would also benefit from the additional tax revenue and job creation that legal marijuana creates. Just in 2015, Colorado saw over $100 million created in tax revenue, and, if recreational marijuana were legalized, the U.S. could see an additional $131.8 billion generated from tax revenue by 2025. The marijuana industry is also a huge job-creator — legalized cannabis resulted in more than 18,000 new jobs in Colorado in 2015 alone.

Following this trend, imagine how many jobs could be created on a national level. Those working in the marijuana industry alone, such as dispensary workers, growers and retailers, need to hire outside business as well to aid in the production of cannabis. This includes not only lawyers and contractors, but also equipment manufacturers and local building owners.

While there are many clear upsides of legalization, marijuana is still a drug we have a lot to learn about. The drug does have therapeutic and pain-relieving benefits, but it’s still a relatively new concept in the medical world and can have adverse effects, such as sleepiness, dizziness, and, while considerably less likely than other drugs, addiction. Additionally, there are some reports that marijuana may be linked to some memory and processing impairments in young users who consume cannabis frequently. To combat this, the legal age to purchase marijuana should remain 21, as the brain is mostly done developing by this point.

Even though there are some downsides and a lot more research still to be done, scientists have found many medicinal benefits to the drug. Marijuana can treat chronic pain, glaucoma, arthritis and other ailments as well as help decrease muscle spasms or seizures. There are even studies, while preliminary, finding that cannabidiol, or CBD, may prevent the spread of cancer and slow the growth of tumors. Recreationally, cannabis can help treat anxiety, increase creativity and allow users to feel more relaxed due to the release of dopamine it causes.

Aside from all of the recreational and medicinal benefits of marijuana, the U.S. would see a boom in the economy thanks to all of the money saved from future marijuana arrests in addition to the tax revenue and jobs created because of cannabis. It’s time for a nationwide change toward helping our country in more ways than one. Let’s get legalizing.

Lilli Boice is a Medill junior. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.