Before several states in this country legalized cannabis for medical and recreational use, its opponents had many reservations and fears. Some insisted that legalizing the plant would increase crime because the federal government still holds it as a “dangerous substance.” So far more than 88 percent of our states have legalized cannabis for medical use, while a few others like California, Nevada and Colorado have legalized it for recreational consumption. But five years after Colorado pioneered its legalization for adult use, what has happened? Have we seen any social and economic breakdown in these states? Has crime spiraled out of control and our young people dropped out of school to consume cannabis? 

In the remaining sections of this post, I will show you how all the fears that legalization opponents raised are unfounded. I will discuss how the legalized cannabis has had positive ripple effects on the states that have regulated it well. You will also learn how the cannabis industry is positively transforming different aspects of our society’s fundamental infrastructure.  

Medical Facilities 

We begin our coverage with the most important infrastructure of any society—health and well-being. Without a proper and functional health system, every industry, including the real estate and cannabis industries, would collapse. Obviously unwell individuals cannot go to work; instead, they go to the hospital, and even if they were to report to work, they cannot produce optimal results. The cannabis industry has greatly impacted the health of its people in states that have regulated it. In Washington for example, the state received $83 million in excise taxes during the first year after it legalized recreational cannabis. In 2016 the taxes reached $185 and in 2017 it exceeded $230. Washington invested most of these taxes in its public health programs, Medicaid programs, substance abuse prevention and the building of community health centers across the state. 

In Colorado, the story is the same. Here is what Shannon Gray, one of its officials at the Colorado Department of Revenue said about it: “The marijuana license division is fully paid for by the licenses fees and the rest of the tax and fee revenues are dedicated to unintended consequences of legalization, such as public health campaigns.” 

Schools 

After achieving a healthy population, ignorance is the next enemy that needs elimination. The reason is that no economy can run on illiteracy because a poor or underfunded education system will run down a country’s economy. In Colorado, the state’s government understands these facts clearly. Therefore, it has prioritized school funding using cannabis taxes. In the first two years after legalizing recreational cannabis, Colorado collected more than $269 million. Ever since the bigger portion of those taxes funds its Department of Education. Since 2015, the state has spent more than $110 million building new schools and upgrading old ones. 

What happened in Colorado is so significant that it has become a model for the rest of the country. Justin Strekal, political director at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, an advocacy group committed to legalizing recreational cannabis agrees with this. He is quoted saying, “We’ve seen that it has generated over a billion dollars in tax revenue over the last few years, and just this year we saw the largest ever amount of money being allocated for new school construction (in Colorado). A significant amount of that allocated money was from the taxes generated from the sale of marijuana.” 

Housing 

Cannabis is impacting housing in other positive ways beyond just fetching better prices for homeowners. For example, the revenues the government of Colorado generates from cannabis help poor and homeless citizens. Approximately $105 million of its cannabis tax revenue for the fiscal year 2016-2017 went to its “Marijuana Tax Cash Fund,” which creates housing programs. Additionally, Colorado Governor, John Hickenlooper, signed a budget bill that seeks to oversight the cannabis industry. Here is part of what the bill says, “We expect to reduce incarceration, hospitalization, and homelessness for many of Colorado’s most vulnerable citizens.” For the next fiscal year, $15.3 million of the state’s cannabis taxes will provide permanent supportive housing and housing assistance for the homeless or those who are at risk of losing their homes 

Improved Safety 

Lastly, we look at one of cannabis’ most important contributions that are necessary for the existence and success of any industry, including real estate — public security. Without security, no industry would operate fully, because a safe working environment is conducive for proper business operations. This is even more serious for the real estate industry because no tenant or buyer would like to live or work in an insecure environment. Initially, the prophets of doom predicted that legalizing cannabis would increase crime rates. However, results on the ground prove otherwise. For example, crime rates in Colorado and Washington states have dropped in the last five years. 

According to the King County Sheriff’s Department in Washington, legalization “takes a huge burden off the criminal justice system.” Moreover, police and law enforcement officials have largely lauded legalization since it frees up resources and saves them money and time that could have gone to chasing petty cannabis offenders. 

In a new study that Police Quarterly Journal published, it emerged that cannabis legalization proponents were right. The study shows that police clearance rates (a figure that represents the number of crimes that resulted in an arrest divided by the total number of reported crimes) increased in Colorado and Washington states after they legalized recreational cannabis. The logical explanation for these results is that with legalization, states no longer allocate law enforcement resources to petty cannabis-related crimes. This leaves officers with more time and resources to deal with more serious criminal cases. 

Parting Shot 

Cannabis plays a significant role in developing and supporting our society’s basic infrastructure such as housing, health, education, and public security. This post examined examples and evidence from different states such as Colorado and Washington intending to prove how legalized cannabis has had a positive ripple effect on their basic real estate and social infrastructure. I hope you can now understand that the social-economic impact of legalizing cannabis disapproves the fears of legalization opponents.

Pete Asmus is not one to let life idly pass him by. GreenZone 360’s CEO gets things done. From motivational speaking and meeting with new business partners to building ninja courses for his kids and advocating for public education on Alopecia. Whether it’s business or family, you’ll find Pete going to MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN.