Cannabis Culture recreative marijuana "dispensary" (pot shop). Photo: Wikimedia.
In the US, major insurers are now providing workers compensation for cannabis industry businesses.
Meanwhile, from Malta to Mexico, countries all over the world are gradually starting their own legalization processes.
Let’s take a look at six of the most interesting consequences of this push to make weed legal once again.
1. The black market is still thriving
Far from removing marijuana from the illegal drug trade, the new laws simply carved out a different niche for it. Legalization certainly changed the game.
However, with taxes, rules, regulations, and other factors governing the marijuana industry, there are still plenty of incentives for trafficking the drug illegally.
2. Use and abuse are up
It’s no surprise that marijuana use increased after legalization. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does come with an uncomfortable side effect – cannabis abuse has increased significantly in the US.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), marijuana abuse and dependence increased from 15% to 27% of users since legalization.
In addition to this troubling increase, the survey found a correlated rise in binge drinking. Though direct causation has not yet been established, further research may well confirm the link.
3. Kids are starting earlier
The same NBER survey found a 5-6% increase in marijuana experimentation among adolescents. However, interestingly, this did not lead to a statistically significant increase in long-term use among respondents in this age category.
In other words, many kids are trying marijuana earlier now that it’s more freely available. However, at this stage, it seems like they’re sticking with experimentation and not developing patterns of regular use or abuse.
4. Cannabis-related hospital visits doubled in Colorado
When comparing 2011 (the year before legalization in Colorado) with 2014 (two years into legalization), statistics reveal that cannabis-related hospital visits doubled.
It’s likely that this spike will drop again as people gain a better understanding of the effects marijuana has on them, their tolerance level, and indeed, whether it’s suitable for them at all.
5. Inconsistencies between states are causing problems
Since marijuana legalization is currently being carried out at the state level in the US, the laws vary all over the country. As you can imagine, this makes it incredibly difficult for cannabis businesses to consistently operate within the bounds of the law.
Banks often won’t process funds from cannabis industry businesses, forcing many dispensaries to operate cash-only businesses.
Cannabis users must also be careful when traveling as they may step onto a flight with a perfectly legal supply of edibles and then arrive at a destination where this same product is going to land them in trouble.
6. Other countries are following suit
Travelers in Thailand once faced harsh penalties for marijuana possession, with the death penalty on the table for some offenses. However, since mid-2022, visitors and residents alike have been able to pop into their local weed dispensary to pick up a personal supply.
Medical use of cannabis has been legalized in dozens of countries, while Thailand, Canada, Uruguay, and a handful of other nations have taken a step further, legalizing recreational use as well. We can expect this trend to continue over the coming years.
We’re yet to see how far the effects of marijuana legalization will spread. While not all of the consequences will be perfectly positive, one thing is certain – it will be fascinating to watch them unfold.