For decades misinformation and outright racism have guided cannabis policy. As a result, we have wasted billions of dollars criminalizing non-violent cannabis users. Across our nation, states are moving to address past policy errors and generate new jobs and state revenue by legalizing the recreational use of cannabis. Alabama should be next.
The time to legalize the recreational use of cannabis in Alabama is now.
Here's the Facts on Legalizing Cannabis:
- Legalizing recreational use of cannabis reduces crime: States who legalized recreational cannabis also saw a drop in their crime rates. Neighboring counties and cities were also positively impacted. There is also evidence that suggests that legitimizing the sale of cannabis undercuts cartel activity (Reduces Crime; Undercuts Cartel Activity).
- Legalizing recreational use of cannabis boosts state economies: Excise and sales taxes on cannabis raised more than $1.9 billion in 2019. This represents a jump of nearly half a billion dollars, or 33 percent, compared to a year earlier. For example, Colorado raised $60.11 in tax revenue per capita in 2019. In 2020, Colorado raised $387. If Alabama legalized recreational cannabis and had a similar per capita tax rate as Colorado did in 2019, we would generate an additional 294.5 million dollars in new state revenue (National/State Revenue).
- Legalizing recreational use of cannabis had no impact on traffic accidents or fatalities: Opponents have claimed that legalizing cannabis for recreational use would lead to more traffic accidents and fatalities. The most recent and comprehensive studies demonstrate such claims are false (Traffic and Cannabis Legalization Study).
- Legalizing recreational use of cannabis brings jobs: In 2020 alone, they calculate, it created 77,000 jobs. Across the country, there are about 321,000 jobs in the legal marijuana industry, a 32-percent increase over the previous year — at a time when the broader economy shrank by 3.5 percent. That figure represents jobs in only 37 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, where marijuana is legal for either recreational or medical consumption (Cannabis Legalization and Jobs).
- Legalizing recreational use of cannabis is good for worker's compensation programs and reduces opioid addiction: states that legalized recreational marijuana saw a significant decline in the use of their worker compensation systems. They estimate that the number of workers aged 40-62 who received income from workers comp fell by about 20 percent following legalization. Additionally, cannabis's effect on reducing opioid abuse has been documented in other studies (Worker's Comp; Opioid Abuse Reduction).
- Legalizing recreational use of cannabis will save Alabama money and make our criminal justice system more equitable: Marijuana prohibition costs the state and its municipalities an estimated $22 million a year, creates a dangerous backlog at the agency that tests forensic evidence in violent crimes, and needlessly ensnares thousands of people – disproportionately African Americans – in the criminal justice system. Black people were approximately four times as likely as white people to be arrested for marijuana possession (both misdemeanors and felonies) in 2016 – and five times as likely to be arrested for felony possession. Despite robust evidence demonstrating the white and black people use cannabis at virtually the same rate, these racial disparities persist. (Cost of Criminalizing Cannabis; Rate of Cannabis Use By Race).