As of this writing, 10 states + Washington, DC have legalized recreational marijuana and 33 states have legalized medical marijuana. Yet, whether medical or recreational, marijuana continues to be a controversial topic on the federal level.
Even though more and more Americans (62%, according to Pew Research) approve of medical marijuana – double what it was in the year 2000 – there’s still some apprehension about recreational use. Not surprisingly, it divides on a generational level, with Millennials and Gen-X supporting it more than Baby Boomers and the “Silent Generation.”
Perhaps this is due to marijuana, both recreational and medical, being illegal on the federal level.
Whatever the reasons, there are pros and cons to widespread recreational marijuana use and it’s important to arm yourself with available data when making a choice whether or not to introduce marijuana into your life.
Pros of Recreational Marijuana
1. Millions of Dollars in Tax Revenue
Colorado’s sales have exceeded $6 billion since 2014 when legal sales of recreational weed began. In 2018 alone, sales exceeded $266.5 million, which was up almost 8% from the prior year. In California, projections are that marijuana excise taxes will generate $514 million in 2019-2020. And other states with legal recreational weed have reported higher than expected revenues.
2. Job Creation
In California, the ICF study guesstimates at least 81,000 additional direct and indirect jobs as a result of legalized marijuana sales. An increase in total labor income by at least $3.5 billion is also projected.
If the day comes when it’s legalized federally, that would open up the door to over 1.1 million jobs nationwide by 2025.
3. Less Arrests
In states where marijuana is legalized recreationally, arrests have dropped significantly. Less arrests mean less incarcerations, which in turn saves states millions of dollars in incarceration and processing costs. The social bonuses are keeping families together and less stigma around having a record.
In addition, law enforcement is not tasked with arresting low-level offenders possessing small amounts of weed. This frees up officers to focus on property and violent crimes, which provide a safer environment for all residents.
4. Lower Crime Rates
The states that have data that have legalized recreational marijuana have reported a drop in crime. In fact, the Colorado Department of Public Safety reports a six percent decrease in violent crime statewide, and a 2.2% drop in violence during the first year of recreational legalization alone.
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5. Investment Opportunities
Even though it’s still illegal on the federal level, the marijuana industry still provides ample investment opportunities in states where it’s legalized. And should it become legal nationally, then marijuana companies would be able to list on the stock exchange, which would open it up to many more investors. Given the growth rate of the marijuana industry in the states where it’s been legalized, it would likely be attractive to many more investors.
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6. It Can Help With Stress
Recently, researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago conducted a study with participants by using low doses of THC (micro-dosing). Those taking the THC reported less stress than those who’d been given placebos.
People who use marijuana on a regular basis report feeling less stress than when they are not using it.
7. Heightened Senses
People who partake in marijuana, be it by smoking or ingesting, claim that it heightens their senses. From deep thoughts to the taste of food, some people even claim that music sounds better and their surroundings are calmer. There is science to back it up, because of the chemical reaction in the brain – it does, in fact, augment all five senses.
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8. Cannabis Eases Pain
Study after study has shown that the use of cannabis helps to reduce pain, which is why many states have legalized medical marijuana. So it only stands to reason that those using it for recreational purposes may find a dual reason to continue. It helps with cluster headaches, muscle spasms and more. This is due to the fact that the body has cannabinoid receptors (places where the chemicals attach to the cells).
9. Minimizes Nausea
CBD interacts with serotonin releasing receptors, and when taken in fairly small doses has been shown to help ease both nausea and vomiting. CBD can also be effective in easing anxiety, as discussed above, which can help users manage the angst of chronic nausea. The other advantage, if you suffer from a lack of appetite due to nausea, is that marijuana has been reported to enhance the user’s appetite.
Other benefits that have been casually reported have been users feeling more positive about their lives, feeling light-hearted and happy. Users have also reported enhanced creativity and bonding amongst friends.
Cons of Recreational Marijuana
1. Reports of Paranoia
Because marijuana is still illegal on the national level, research is limited. However, back in 2014, a group of researchers at Oxford Univerity looked into paranoia from marijuana. In the study, they gave 121 adults between the ages of 21 and 50 an injection of either THC or a placebo. The THC dose was the same as it would be from joint.
After each of the volunteers were injected, they answered a series of questions about their experience. When the study was over, the researchers found that 50% of those who’d taken the THC reported feelings of paranoia. Only 30% of those who’d taken the placebo had feelings of paranoia.
2. Possibility of Addiction
In severe cases, people who suffer from “marijuana use disorder” can go on to become addicted. People who use marijuana frequently sometimes report mood and sleep difficulties, restlessness, physical discomfort, irritability, decreased appetite, restlessness, and/or other types of physical discomfort that peak within the first week after quitting. These can sometimes last up to two weeks.
Addiction occurs when a person cannot stop using, despite the use interfering in a negative way in aspects of their lives, be it work, family, friends or finances.
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3. Marijuana May Be Linked to Depression
There is research that points to heavy marijuana users being diagnosed with depression more than non-users, but it’s not proven. There has also been some evidence that teenagers who attempt suicide may be more likely to have used marijuana.
However, in both of the above cases, more research is needed to better understand these associations.
The bottom line is that weed use and depression may accompany each other more often than you might expect by chance, but there’s direct link to marijuana causing depression.
4. Use of Marijuana Can Lead to Short-Term Memory Loss
Although research is still somewhat limited, there are studies that have shown that weed use can lead to short-term memory loss.
According to the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), studies on rodents have shown that THC alters the hippocampus, the part of the brain that processes information and creates memories.
THC seems to accelerate deterioration of the hippocampus, which is what causes age-related memory loss. Rodents that received THC every day for eight months lost as many brain cells in the hippocampus as rodents twice their age, according to NIDA.
However, when users stopped using, they reported a gradual improvement in their memory – sometimes within 48 hours.
5. Higher Percentage of Accidents
Be it car wrecks or accidents in the workplace, marijuana has been implicated as a culprit because of its psychotropic effects and slow response time.
6. Bad Effects on Health from Smoking
Smoking of any kind – weed or tobacco – can have serious consequences on your lungs. There are also cancer-causing compounds when opting to smoke marijuana.
As with anything you ingest into your body, doing your due diligence in research is highly recommended. As well, weed affects everyone differently. What might make one person paranoid, makes another relaxed and at ease. Different strains have different results, so make sure you look into what might be right for you.
At the end of the day, this is all about personal choice and the more data you have, the better able you are to make the choice that works best for you.