Politics

Legalization of Cannabis – Candidate Brenda Lopez Romero

Legalization of Cannabis

On April 2, 2019 Georgia officially passed Georgia’s Hope Act[1], legalizing the use of medical cannabis oil. This major milestone creates a pathway for further considerations such as decriminalizing marijuana, and legalizing recreational marijuana use. According to a report published by the ACLU, the War on Marijuana has a “staggeringly disproportionate impact” accompanied by devastating human and financial effects in Black communities.[2] Additionally, states that have adopted pro-cannabis legislation have been able to collect significant tax revenue that is invested back into the community.[3] For example, Colorado has collected over one billion dollars in tax revenue since legalizing recreational marijuana.[4] Georgia should be the leader of the Southeast and adopt legislation that will fund our communities, reduce crime, and finally end with decriminalization of marijuana that has terribly affected our most vulnerable communities.

Medical Use

Georgia’s Hope Act was an important turning point for Georgian’s who rely on medical marijuana. Although very limited, the bill now creates a safe pathway for patients suffering from severe seizures, deadly cancers and other severe illnesses to obtain a controlled amount of cannabis oil as part of their treatment plan.[5] However, this bill only covers a very limited patient network. There are additional ways that cannabis can be used to treat several illnesses that does not involve controlled cannabis oil.[6]

Medical marijuana, CBD, THC can all be used in different ways to treat illnesses such as PTSD, anxiety, chronic pain, HIV/AIDS symptoms, Glaucoma, Multiple sclerosis, side effects of chemotherapy amongst others.[7] According to a study by the University of Washington, THC and CBD in specific dosages can be used to decrease anxiety disorders.[8]Limiting full use of cannabis for medical treatments results in limiting Georgian’s quality of life. Patients and their physicians should have the right to choose the treatment plan that is best for their health. Creating limitations and barriers on the medical use of cannabis could lead to criminal convictions for patients and that is just not acceptable.

Recreational Use and Decriminalization

Legalizing recreational use of marijuana has been a controversial topic, but it does not have to be. The data collected over several years by different research entities have proven through evidentiary support, that criminalizing marijuana use is a failed system and its simply bad public policy.[9] Criminalizing marijuana has led to disproportionate and detrimental long-term effects on vulnerable communities, specifically for people of color.[10] Criminalizing marijuana is another pathway for mass incarceration, and generational oppression for black and brown communities.[11] Additionally, Georgia cannot afford additional financial strains in housing, education and employment caused by criminalization of marijuana.

According to a study conducted by the ACLU, legalizing recreational marijuana can lead to financial gain, medical progress and social justice. With a controlled market, marijuana can be monitored for safety and quality.[12] This can also lead to a decrease in organized crime. As of 2018, Washington D.C. along with eleven state have passed legislation allowing marijuana for recreational use and twenty-one states have considered or passed some sort of pro-cannabis legislation.[13] Georgia could lead the Southeast by adopting pro-cannabis legislation and offer our state the benefits of such public policy.

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The financial gain in tax revenue can lead to a robust investment in public education and other services for our state. This was seen in Colorado after they passed pro-cannabis legislation.[14] Decriminalization of marijuana can help vulnerable communities by reducing incarceration and unemployment rates.[15] The benefits surpass the cons, and will grant Georgia the opportunity for a healthy market economy and a more for justice system for Georgians.

The Colorado Example

Colorado offers insight on how the outcome of legalizing marijuana has boosted their economy, stabilized consumption, decreased incarceration rates and in some cases improved public health.[16] A regulated and controlled market has enabled data collection to be more accurate post legalization, leading to more accurate representation of outcomes. This information can be used to study the effects and outcomes of legalizing marijuana.

Source: Colorado Department of Revenue

Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2014 and has collected over one billion dollars in tax revenue since its implementation.[17] According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, for the Fiscal Year 2017–2018 Retail Marijuana Sales Tax resulted in $67.8 million dollars invested into Public Education.[18] Additional funding is allocated to Agriculture, Health Care Policy, Higher Education, Human Services, Judicial, Labor and Employment, Law, Local Affairs, Public Health, Public Safety and Transportation.[19]

Source: Colorado Department of Revenue

Contrary to popular belief, marijuana consumption is still lower than tobacco and binge drinking.[20]Alcohol is the highest cause for ER visits and hospitalization for substance abuse since 2000.[21] The rate of marijuana consumption amongst adolescents have remained stable since 2005, there have been no changes in adolescent driving behavior since 2014.[22]This exemplifies that legislation did not generate massive consumption in comparison to other legal alternatives. Marijuana use amongst high school students in Colorado in comparison to the US average is about the same, with the benefit of decriminalization that could otherwise lead to scholarship losses and drop-out rates.[23]

Source: Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment

Source: Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment

Public Safety data for Colorado shows drastic decrease of marijuana arrests between 2012 to 2017, concluding in a decrease of 56% for Whites, 39% for Hispanics and 51% for Blacks.[24] Total number of marijuana arrests decreased by 52%.[25] Overall crime in Denver, has also decreased since 2012.[26] DUI convictions were predominately based on alcohol consumption by a large scale, and DUI based deaths were majorly caused by alcohol versus cannabinoid.[27]

Source: Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment

Colorado has five years of evidentiary support on the outcomes of legalizing cannabis, most of the data concluding in benefits that outweigh the negatives. Improvements in public safety have been evident. Marijuana arrest rates have decreased as well as other crime categories such as burglary.[28] Adolescent consumption has remained stable since legalization, and DUI’s continue to be a result of alcohol abuse. Tax revenue generated have been able to fund construction of new schools and overall Public Education.[29] Arrests have drastically decreased for people of color, versus the prior disproportionate rate of arrests and convictions. Colorado is a great example of how public policy can be created with transparency and efficiency to benefit the state and its constituents.

Conclusion

In conclusion, legalizing cannabis in Georgia could lead to great outcomes that include improvement in public safety, public health, tax revenue and social justice. Decriminalizing marijuana could lead Georgia to spearhead an effort against mass incarceration for communities of color. Additionally, students would be less likely to be charged and convicted of petty offenses that could cost them long term effects such as dropping out of school, loss of scholarships, unemployment and poverty. Marijuana could be used for medicinal purposes to treat illnesses including addition to prescription medication. Lastly, tax revenue generated from a controlled market could lead to robust investment into our communities. Georgia has the potential to gain so much from legalizing cannabis, there should be no reason to not consider this policy option.

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Bibliography

American Civil Liberties Union. 2013. The War on Marijuana in Black and White. Repoprt, New York: ACLU. https://www.aclu.org/report/report-war-marijuana-black-and-white?redirect=criminal-law-reform/war-marijuana-black-and-white-report.

Colorado Department of Public Health & Enviorment. 2018. Monitoring Health Concerns Related to Marijuana in Colorado. Summary Report, Denver: Colorado Department of Public Health & Enviorment. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cyaRNiT7fUVD2VMb91ma5bLMuvtc9jZy/view.

Colorado Department of Public Safety. 2019. Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice. Annual Report, Colorado: Colorado Department of Public Safety. Accessed December 23, 2019. https://cdpsdocs.state.co.us/ors/docs/reports/2019-12_CCJJAnnRpt.pdf.

Colorado Department of Revenue. 2019. Marijuana Tax Data. Report, Denver: Colorado Department of Revenue Research and Analysis. https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/revenue/colorado-marijuana-tax-data.

Colorado Division of Criminal Justice. 2018. Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado. Report, Denver: Colorado Division of Criminal Justice. http://cdpsdocs.state.co.us/ors/docs/reports/2018-SB13-283_Rpt.pdf.

Gravley, Micah, Mark Newton, Alan Powell, Calvin Smyre, David Clark, and Scot Turner. 2019. HB 324 Georgia’s Hope Act. Act, Atlanta: Georgia General Assembly. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20192020/HB/324.

Grinspoon MD, Peter. 2019. “Medical marijuana.” Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/medical-marijuana-2018011513085.

National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health. 2019. Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need To Know. November. Accessed December 20, 2019. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/marijuana-cannabinoids.

National Conference of State Legislatures. 2019. Marijuana Overview. October. Accessed December 20, 2019. http://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/marijuana-overview.aspx.

Niesse, Mark, and Bluestein Greg. 2019. “Medical marijuana sales approved by Georgia Legislature.” Atlanta Journal Constitution. https://www.ajc.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/medical-marijuana-deal-nears-approval-georgia/F9sz5wgVBMxrbSF4bdlg0N/.

Rosenbaum, Eric. 2019. “Colorado passes $1 billion in marijuana state revenue.” CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/06/12/colorado-passes-1-billion-in-marijuana-state-revenue.html.

Stoner PHD, Susan. 2017. Effects of Marijuana on Mental Health: Anxiety Disorders. Report, Seattle: University of Washington .

Todd, Tamar. 2018. “The Benefits of Marijuana.” Berkley Symposium 100–119. https://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1124&context=bjcl.

[1] Gravley, Micah, Mark Newton, Alan Powell, Calvin Smyre, David Clark, and Scot Turner. 2019. HB 324 Georgia’s Hope Act. Act, Atlanta: Georgia General Assembly.

[2] American Civil Liberties Union. 2013. The War on Marijuana in Black and White. Repoprt, New York: ACLU

[3] Colorado Department of Revenue. 2019. Marijuana Tax Data. Report, Denver: Colorado Department of Revenue Research and Analysis

[4] Colorado Department of Revenue. 2019. Marijuana Tax Data. Report, Denver: Colorado Department of Revenue Research and Analysis

[5] Niesse, Mark, and Bluestein Greg. 2019. “Medical marijuana sales approved by Georgia Legislature.” Atlanta Journal Constitution.

[6] Grinspoon MD, Peter. 2019. “Medical marijuana.” Harvard Health Publishing.

[7] National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health. 2019. Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need To Know. November

[8] Stoner PHD, Susan. 2017. Effects of Marijuana on Mental Health: Anxiety Disorders. Report, Seattle: University of Washington .

[9] American Civil Liberties Union. 2013. The War on Marijuana in Black and White. Repoprt, New York: ACLU

[10] Todd, Tamar. 2018. “The Benefits of Marijuana.” Berkley Symposium 100–119

[11] American Civil Liberties Union. 2013. The War on Marijuana in Black and White. Repoprt, New York: ACLU

[12] American Civil Liberties Union. 2013. The War on Marijuana in Black and White. Repoprt, New York: ACLU

[13] National Conference of State Legislatures. 2019. Marijuana Overview. October

[14] Colorado Department of Revenue. 2019. Marijuana Tax Data. Report, Denver: Colorado Department of Revenue Research and Analysis

[15] American Civil Liberties Union. 2013. The War on Marijuana in Black and White. Repoprt, New York: ACLU

[16] Colorado Department of Revenue. 2019. Marijuana Tax Data. Report, Denver: Colorado Department of Revenue Research and Analysis

[17] Colorado Department of Revenue. 2019. Marijuana Tax Data. Report, Denver: Colorado Department of Revenue Research and Analysis

[18] Colorado Department of Revenue. 2019. Marijuana Tax Data. Report, Denver: Colorado Department of Revenue Research and Analysis

[19] Colorado Department of Revenue. 2019. Marijuana Tax Data. Report, Denver: Colorado Department of Revenue Research and Analysis

[20] Colorado Department of Public Health & Enviorment. 2018. Monitoring Health Concerns Related to Marijuana in Colorado. Summary Report, Denver: Colorado Department of Public Health & Enviorment

[21] Colorado Department of Public Safety. 2019. Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice. Annual Report, Colorado: Colorado Department of Public Safety

[22] Colorado Department of Public Health & Enviorment. 2018. Monitoring Health Concerns Related to Marijuana in Colorado. Summary Report, Denver: Colorado Department of Public Health & Enviorment

[23] Ibid

[24] Colorado Division of Criminal Justice. 2018. Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado. Report, Denver: Colorado Division of Criminal Justice.

[25] Colorado Division of Criminal Justice. 2018. Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado. Report, Denver: Colorado Division of Criminal Justice.

[26] Colorado Division of Criminal Justice. 2018. Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado. Report, Denver: Colorado Division of Criminal Justice.

[27] Ibid

[28] Colorado Division of Criminal Justice. 2018. Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado. Report, Denver: Colorado Division of Criminal Justice.

[29] Colorado Department of Revenue. 2019. Marijuana Tax Data. Report, Denver: Colorado Department of Revenue Research and Analysis


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