9 Ways Californians Might Benefit From The Legalization Of Recreational Marijuana

The legal marijuana industry in Colorado, for example, created more than 18,000 new full-time jobs in 2015 alone.

On Jan.1, more than a year after California residents passed Proposition 64 or the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, the use of recreational marijuana became legal for Californians 21 years or older. 

This new law comes with downsides, of course — marijuana carries long-term health risks and DUI and DWI cases may increase — but a lot of upsides, too. Here's a list of some of those benefits, including a few that may come as a surprise.

1. Job growth

A study by the Marijuana Policy Group found the legal marijuana industry in Colorado created more than 18,000 new full-time jobs in 2015 alone, the Chicago Tribune reported.

2. Increased retail sales

That same Marijuana Policy Group study also found retail sales in Colorado in 2015 neared the $1 billion mark, contributing to $2.4 billion in economic activity.

3. More state and federal tax revenue

The marijuana industry is generating tax revenue at a rate three times that of the alcohol industry in Colorado. Furthermore, the MPG study expected marijuana taxes to top cigarette taxes as a source of revenue by 2020.

Meanwhile, the Tax Foundation estimated that if marijuana is federally taxed at $23 per pound — which is similar to the federal tax on tobacco — that could reap $500 million per year. Furthermore, if marijuana carries a 10 percent sales tax, that could reap $5.3 billion per year.

4. Increased demand for other businesses

The MPG study also noted legal marijuana growers need physical goods — such as warehouse space and lighting and irrigation equipment — and local services — such as contractors, lawyers, and bookkeepers — meaning other industries get a boost from marijuana legalization.

5. A reduced black market

Though marijuana is still sold illicitly in Colorado, the Marijuana Policy Group estimated that 90 percent of the market will be above board and sold by licensed and regulated dealers by 2020.

6. A changed war on drugs

Enforcement of marijuana prohibition has been racially biased, the Drug Policy Alliance asserted, but now California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom has hope the scales will be balanced. "Creating a safe, legal, and tightly regulated system for adult-use marijuana is, at its core, about criminal justice reform and fixing a broken system that has disproportionately harmed low-income Californians and communities of color," Newsom told HuffPost.

7. Increased consumer safety

Product testing is becoming more common in the legal marijuana industry, the Drug Policy Alliance reported, which means users can consume the marijuana with more peace of mind.

8. Harm reduction for opioid users

The country has an opioid crisis on its hands, and marijuana provides one of the safest therapeutic substitutes for opioids, as Bentley University's Miriam Boeri wrote.

9. Treatment of medical conditions

California legalized medical cannabis in 1996, but now everyone has access to marijuana's purported health benefits. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, two cannabinoids from the marijuana plant are used medically: THC and CBD. THC can increase appetite, suppress nausea, alleviate pain and inflammation, and mitigate muscle control problems. CBD can reduce pain and inflammation, too, but might also control seizures and treat mental illnesses.

Cover photos vis Shutterstock.

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