What Canada should learn about legal marijuana from California and Colorado

Published Feb 22, 2019 02:26 p.m. ET

The world went a tiny bit crazy when Canada officially legalized marijuana for recreational use on October 17, 2018, but Canada wasn’t even close to being the first country to see some form of legalization. Both California and Colorado have a legal marijuana industry that is flourishing and has been for several years. Canadians themselves are divided about the legality of marijuana, with many rejoicing what has been a long hard battle that’s finally been won.  Others shared concerns.

The most significant worry across the board was the influence that dispensaries would have on neighboring businesses. The second concern being how many children will have access to cannabis now that it’s expected to be a staple product in many homes. Others fear a spike in crime rates due to impaired drivers, but are any of these valid concerns based on what we have seen? What Canada can learn from California and Colorado is that the introduction of cannabis has been for the most part a positive change.  

Colorado crime has gone down since legalization

That’s right! Despite many comparing cannabis dispensaries to bars or strip clubs, the crime rates in the area have seen a staggering drop since legalization came into effect. Thisincludes all charges including impaired driving.

California crime has gone down since legalization

While California hasn’t seen quite as much of a positive turn around on their crime rates, it has gone down significantly despite having some of the most stringent regulations in the world for cannabis vendors.

Colorado marijuana statistics

  • Colorado has seen no increase in cannabis use amongst youth nor has there been any changes in the dropout and graduation rates.
  • The total number of people in fatal vehicle collisions who tested higher than the legal limit of THC is down to 35 from 53 the year before legalization.
  • Cannabis-related arrests dropped by over 60% in the first year after marijuana was legalized.

California marijuana statistics

  • California has seen no increase in cannabis use among youth nor has there been any changes in the dropout and graduation rates.
  • The total number of people in fatal vehicle collisions who tested higher than the legal limit of THC is down to 42 from 57 the year before legalization.
  • Cannabis-related arrests dropped by 50% in the first year after marijuana was legalized.

Effects on the economy

Colorado’s economy before and after legalization is one of the most incredible examples of how something so simple can turn dead areas into hustling and bustling tourist zones, that brings in more than 400 visitors daily. Since the addition of storefronts in both Colorado and California, the local economy has blossomed bringing in millions in additional revenue every single month. That means more jobs and more taxes paid.

In both Colorado and California, black market marijuana still thrives. Though most residents seem to prefer the unique experience that a dispensary can offer. Unfortunately, prices have not seen a fair enough balance to completely get rid of black market marijuana, but it has had many other positive effects on the regions that already have healthy markets established. While there may be a few bad apples, as with anything, dispensaries and pot shops bring much more good than bad and we likely don’t have much to worry about here in Canada.

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