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A recent forecast performed by New Frontier Data, a data analytics firm that focuses on the marijuana industry, found that marijuana legalization nationwide would create a minimum of $132 billion in tax revenue for the federal government between 2017 and 2025. Additionally, 782,000 jobs would be added across the United States. So if marijuana legalization will only provide more money for the government and an increase in jobs, why hasn’t it happened already?
While this “forecast” looked at revenue that could potentially be provided by marijuana legalization, New Frontier Data didn’t look at the costs associated with marijuana legalization and what the potential impacts to age groups and employers could be. As marijuana becomes more and more popular cross country, studies have shown that marijuana use amongst teens has become more popular than cigarette use. If marijuana were legalized nationwide, the rate of teens using marijuana would rise even more. As not many studies have looked at the long-term impacts of marijuana use when started as a teen, the impacts of the rising popularity would be unknown. One things for certain, though – we know that marijuana use impacts the still-developing brain of teens poorly, and doctors and marijuana legalization advocates recommend abstaining from marijuana use until at least age 21.
And what about the potential costs nationwide marijuana legalization would have for employers? Undoubtedly, one of the largest associated costs would be increased disability claims due to medical marijuana. Researchers have already found that in states with medical marijuana, disability claims rose almost 10% post legalization, while the actual benefits paid out rose almost 3%. Not only will disability and workers’ compensation claims rise drastically, but small business rent will continue to increase as well. Small businesses typically rent to start out with, and in states with legalized recreational marijuana, as marijuana businesses move in to areas typically occupied by small businesses, rents have risen as much as 33%.
This doesn’t even take into account the costs that marijuana legalization would incur on employers in terms of litigation. While some states build in employers rights to continue testing and ensure a drug-free workplace, recent court cases have begun to rule in favor of employee rights to ingest medical marijuana. Would the same happen with recreational marijuana? Not only would insurance premiums increase as employers became unable to ensure a drug-free workplace and the safety that goes hand in hand with a robust testing program, but litigation costs would shoot through the roof for employers as they fought for their continued right to test employees.
While the surface numbers in support of marijuana legalization might sound nice to begin with, it’s clear that they don’t take into account to all the true costs associated with marijuana legalization. Make sure to do all your research, and to speak up in support of continued workplace safety.