It’s hard to believe that in 2017, cannabis is legal, decriminalized, or prescribed to certain medical patients. Yet thanks to recent legislation and a better understand of the not-so-harmful plant, you can actually visit some states and buy marijuana from a store, get a prescription, or avoid jail time by paying a small fine for possession.
Despite the proven benefits of cannabis and relatively little harm caused by the drug, it is still illegal on a national scale. In fact, the DEA classifies cannabis as a Schedule I substance, alongside heroin and LSD. It will likely stay that way due to the current administration’s open dislike for cannabis, while more harmful substances like alcohol and tobacco are still sold everywhere.
But what if cannabis were legal nationwide?
As proven in Colorado, legalization of cannabis not only cut down on crime in the state, it also added extra tax revenue that never existed before. Other states legalizing cannabis are seeing the same effect, to the point where one could argue legalization on a national scale could, in fact, increase tax revenue and decrease crime nationwide.
The only drawback with legalization, however, is that it would have a negative impact on several existing industries. Many of these industries lobby against nationwide legalization to keep their place in line. Here’s what would happen if they weren’t as successful.
Beer, wine, and spirits companies
Cannabis is non-addictive, non-habit forming, and cannot cause death. Alcohol can, and the alcohol industry knows this. This is why beer, wine, and spirits companies remind consumers to drink responsibly, while putting out ads discouraging drunk driving. While legalization of cannabis wouldn’t kill alcohol companies, it could theoretically put a dent in their bottom line. After all, if consumers are given a safer, legal alternative that won’t get them addicted or kill you, which would do you think they would flock to?
Cigarette companies spend billions each year marketing a product that is proven to be harmful, addictive, and the cause of several cancers that kill millions every year. They also have spent oodles of cash on lobbying, letting their products stay behind counters while preventing cannabis from ever entering a competitive, nationwide market. While the buzz from cannabis is supremely different from a nicotine buzz, consumers would undoubtedly flock to the less harmful, less addicting substance if they could.
Private prison corporations
Millions of Americans (primarily poor, black males) are currently serving time for possession and distribution of cannabis. Legalization of cannabis nationwide would make it so that future Americans possessing or distributing cannabis would not meet the same fate. Unfortunately, prisons owned by private and publicly owned companies exist, and their business relies on the continued incarceration of convicted “criminals,” among other less-than-scrupulous factors.
Cannabis is proven to help patients with multiple sclerosis, while helping those going through chemotherapy regain their appetite and become less nauseous. Cannabis is also an incredible pain reliever of sorts, more so than incredibly addictive opioid-derived pain relievers. Yet pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars every year from selling and marketing those harmful substances, along with pricey treatments for multiple sclerosis. Introduction of legal cannabis would slowly but surely cut into the profits of Big Pharma, something the industry has fought for decades.
Due to current legislation, widespread medical and scientific tests on and using cannabis is pretty much non-existent. These four industries, along with police and prison guard unions, are the main actors fighting against legalization or normalization of cannabis. Should legalization in states (or nationwide) expand, you could expect to see the existing legal cannabis industry grow, with more pot-related stocks going public and marketing their products in more inventive ways (not unlike the tobacco and alcohol industries). Until that happens — if that happens — you have these industries to thank for the current state of things.