It's Time to Legalize Marijuana Everywhere

  • 4 min read

Photo by manish panghal on Unsplash

The enduring stereotype of a weed smoker is someone who’s lazy, apathetic and (often) unemployed. But, as we know, stereotypes aren’t always to be believed. In fact, in the US those stereotypes were created by wealthy cotton and tobacco farmers who were afraid of free market capitalism and, as always, used fear of outsiders to demonize a competitive product. These stereotypes were based in fear and greed, not evidence.

People around the world are using marijuana for its array of health benefits, both physical and mental. Writer and social activist, David Dean, uses it to cope with his crippling daily anxiety and says he’s found it much more beneficial than doctor-prescribed antidepressants. He lives in a state where cannabis is legal, meaning he can seek out certain strains to help different ailments. 

"One strain will help me with social anxiety, while another will give me that extra focus before morning yoga; a few drops of CBD oil in my morning coffee gets me relaxed and ready to take on the day,” he explains.

But the evidence is not just anecdotal; scientists have backed up David’s experiences — quantitatively linking cannabis to a better quality of life. The good news is most Americans agree.

The positive effects of cannabis use: where, when, and why

2019 study found that cannabis consumers in Colorado and California made more money, spend more time outdoors, volunteer more, and are generally more happy about life, when compared to non-users in the same states.

Interestingly, the majority of study participants reported that their cannabis use wasn’t for socializing or recreation — like blazing up at a party. They used it for therapeutic reasons instead. Some used it to manage pain and get better sleep, while others smoked to ease their anxiety, or other emotional variances.

So the point we’re making is this: we probably shouldn’t hotbox our bedrooms everyday in the name of “health and wellness”. That’s not what this is about. But considering how many people cite the positive benefits of responsible marijuana consumption — and the science that’s backing them up — it’s bizarre that low-key cannabis use remains illegal in so many parts of our country (and the world).

Legalization would make it easier for people to access marijuana in a safe and regulated way. No more shady drug deals or plants sourced from who-knows-where. What’s more, we could also start to move away from our society’s dependence on pharmaceutical medication, too — and that’s no bad thing at all, for everyone but the pharmaceutical company executives who are actively fighting against the will of the American people to keep marijuana illegal.

In a groundbreaking research study, economist Alois Stutzer explored the initial effects of medical marijuana legalization in America. His conclusion? That there’s “a clear relationship between liberalization and mental well-being.” In states where therapeutic use is legal, respondents experience fewer days of stress and depression. They also turn less often to other forms of self-medication, like alcohol and — yes — harder, opiate drugs. Legalization also reduces crime.

Legalization removes taboo and negative stigma, creating closer communities and strengthening the economy

With above-board suppliers and a controlled flow of stock, scientists and society can better understand the benefits of cannabis use — and how it can improve health and wellness.

There’d also be no shame in sparking up, either; therapeutic users wouldn’t have to hide their habit from their community. Perhaps the reason why cannabis users in places like Colorado, California, and Washington are so content is not just because of the drug, but because of the more accepting societies they live in?

And it’s not just social benefits to keep in mind.

Local, state, and federal governments could generate $100 billion a year from marijuana industries. And less money could be spent on drug prohibition as well. Plus, legalization and regulation would create new jobs; injecting cash flow into rural, farming communities who’ve been struggling for decades, and keep otherwise law abiding citizens out of jail.

More open and accepting communities and a decrease in unemployment rates? That sounds like a recipe for a happier life, if you ask us.

Will cannabis be legalized across the United States?

Marijuana laws are changing across the US all the time at a pretty rapid pace.

In Idaho, Wyoming, Kansas, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina, it’s stillentirely illegal. But these states are in the minority. All other states have either decriminalized cannabis, or made it accessible for medical purposes only. In our home state of Virginia,Governor Ralph Northam has pledged to work to legalize recreational marijuana in the 2021 legislative session. 

Will access ever be equal until the drug is fully legalized in every state, though? After all, Black patients have historically been denied fair treatment from our medical and legal systems as part of a strategy by the rich to divide us against ourselves. A state that legalizes marijuana for medical use only still risks discriminatory practices, controlling who can get hold of prescriptions and when.

Even with a Democratic president, marijuana won’t be legalized overnight… or even in the next four years if Republicans win the Georgia Senate runoffs in January. And it won’t be a silver bullet. There’s work that we need to do — as Americans and members of society — to heal the divides and help combat the bias. On the plus side,58% of likely voters, including 54% of Republicans, think that the federal government should legalize the use and sale of marijuana. We’re already winning the battle for hearts and minds. Now we just need to winUS Senate votes.

Equal access to healthcare is a big battle — one that we can play our role in by supporting local healthcare movements and demanding change from state legislators. But there’s also the biases we exhibit in our day-to-day lives. What’syour stereotypical image of a weed smoker?

If you were surprised to hear that cannabis users can be happy, high-performing, high-earners, that’s somethingyou can look to change. By fixing how we judge other people, we help bring communities together.

More on that in the next installment of The Good Life Journal. Subscribe to the newsletter now.