Since the decriminalisation of Marijuana in 1970, many research studies have been conducted to examine the benefits and disadvantages of Marijuana. The results have been contradicting, with some supporting the legalization of Marijuana while others advocate for its criminalization. Some of the states that have legalized Marijuana in the US for recreational and medical value are Montana, California, Alaska, Colorado, Vermont, Maine, Nevada, Hawaii, and Washington (Zvonarev et al. 2). Due to the COVID-19 economic devastation in Texas, there is a push for the legalization of Marijuana to increase the state’s revenue. The advocates for this bill state that legalization will significantly raise revenue, improve public health, lower criminal justice expenditure, and stimulate the economy. This study will analyse the issues around the legalization of Marijuana in Texas and determine whether legalization will be helpful or harmful to the Texas community.
Marijuana legalization will help to create revenue and increase job opportunities for Texas. According to the Texas government, over 1.4 million jobs were lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, with unemployment rates reaching a peak in April 2020 at 12.9% (Texas Workforce Commission). Cannabis is expected to revive the economy by raising the state’s revenue and creating more jobs. In 2016, Colorado created $200 million in tax revenue from cannabis and over 17,000 employments in the marijuana industry (Kees et al. 1). However, over 68,000 people were imprisoned in Texas, a neighbouring State, for marijuana possession in the same year (Kees et al. 1). This shows the difference between the two states, whereby Colorado was making more money by legalizing Cannabis while Texas was losing more money in criminal justice cases related to cannabis. With a crumbling economy, one of the most effective methods of increasing the state’s revenue without affecting the current taxes and prices of commodities is to legalize Marijuana. Despite it being illegal, there is still a large population that uses it, and therefore, by legalizing Marijuana, Texas can create revenue and save on the funds used in the criminal justice system to pursue and prosecute those found in possession of Marijuana.
Marijuana will positively and negatively impact the healthcare system. With the increased interest in the use of cannabis in the healthcare system to treat various medical conditions, Medical Marijuana has had a positive impact on healthcare. Marijuana has been effective in pain management, multiple sclerosis, mental health symptoms, nausea, and movement disturbances. However, the use of Marijuana for pain management was found to have more adverse side effects than active drugs (Pratt et al. 26). Some of the side effects include dizziness and drowsiness, but no serious cases were reported. Based on the general healthcare system, Marijuana legalization in Texas is expected to lead to more cannabis abuse, increased alcohol abuse, increased motor vehicle accidents, and decreased chronic pain admissions. Following the marijuana legalization in Oklahoma, there was reported reduced overall hospitalizations; however, there was no change in healthcare costs (Delling et al. 6). The use of cannabis for recreational services was highly associated with alcohol abuse, which increased the number of accidents in New York and Oklahoma states (Delling et al. 7). Therefore, Texas should brace itself for more alcohol-related accidents due to the legalization of weeds, leading to more emergency cases in the healthcare systems. However, legalization will be a big relief for Texas residents who have chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, dementia, and Cystic Fibrosis because the drug will help relieve pain. It is important to highlight that marijuana legalization will not save costs on healthcare services because as the number of chronic patients reduces, the number of emergency cases will increase hence creating an equilibrium.
The legalization of Marijuana will positively impact the criminal justice system of Texas and help embrace racial equality. In the US, over 630,000 arrests were made in 2018 regarding the use of Marijuana, whereby 608,000 of these people were only arrested with recreational Marijuana and were not significant drug dealers (Ahrens 380). The imprisonment of these people has proved to be very costly for the government and taxpayers because the victims have to undergo a jail term, which costs the government approximately $30,000 per annum per victim (Plunk et al. 776). Additionally, the cost is used in arresting the inmates, which is, on average, $1000 per victim (Plunk et al. 776). This implies that the general US government may have used over $608,000,000 in arresting marijuana users in 2018 alone. This added to the time taken to prosecute the victims until they are jailed, showing that convicting marijuana users is a costly exercise for the US government. 97% of Texas marijuana convicts are found with two ounces or less of Marijuana which is an indication that it is for domestic consumption (Ahrens 380). Therefore, legalizing Marijuana in the state would save the local government a significant amount of money because it makes just under 100,000 arrests per year (Ahrens 381). These funds and energy can be redirected into other areas and issues which require greater attention.
On a social effect, marijuana legalization in Texas is expected to reduce racial disparities in the state. The legal system is accused of using Marijuana as a way of convicting racial minorities, especially African Americans. African Americans are three times more likely to be arrested for illegal possession of Marijuana compared to whites (Ahrens 381). This shows that Marijuana has been used in the US to lock most people of color, which is unlawful. The police are accused of targeting the blacks for possession of Marijuana and even sometimes framing them, which has led to oppression hence big demonstrations. Therefore, Texas can reduce racial bias in the criminal system by legalizing Marijuana to end black people profiling. This way, the state will have to save funds used to prosecute and jail the blacks and other minority groups.
As seen in the study above, there are various advantages and disadvantages that Texas will get from legalizing Marijuana. Some of the main advantages include providing revenue and increasing job employment opportunities in Texas, which is already facing an economic crisis. Legalization will also lead to better health outcomes for patients with chronic illnesses because it will foster better pain management. Marijuana will also save the criminal justice system a significant amount of money used in arresting, prosecuting, and jailing the victims in possession of Marijuana. Finally, Marijuana will help reduce racial disparities in Texas, avoiding racial arrests of people of color and especially black Americans for the possession of Marijuana. However, marijuana legalization will also cost the state by increasing hospitalizations, alcohol abuse, and accidents. Since the advantages of legalization significantly outweigh the disadvantages, this study recommends the legalization of Marijuana in Texas.
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Delling, Francesca N., et al. “Does Cannabis Legalisation Change Healthcare Utilisation? A Population-Based Study Using the Healthcare Cost and Utilisation Project in Colorado, USA.” BMJ Open, vol. 9, no. 5, 2019, pp. 1–9, Web.
Kees, Jeremy, et al. “Evidence-Based Cannabis Policy: A Framework to Guide Marketing and Public Policy Research.” Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, vol. 39, no. 1, 2019, pp. 1–17, Web.
Plunk, Andrew D., et al. “Youth and Adult Arrests for Cannabis Possession after Decriminalization and Legalization of Cannabis.” JAMA Pediatrics, vol. 173, no. 8, 2019, pp. 763–80, Web.
Pratt, Misty, et al. “Benefits and Harms of Medical Cannabis: A Scoping Review of Systematic Reviews.” Systematic Reviews, vol. 8, no. 1, 2019, pp. 1–35, Web.
Texas Workforce Commission. “Unemployment News – Texas Workforce Commission.” Texas.gov, 2021, Web.
Zvonarev, Valeriy, et al. “The Public Health Concerns of Marijuana Legalization: An Overview of Current Trends.” Cureus, vol. 11, no. 9, 2019, pp. 1–47, Web.