Last Updated on 2 weeks by Simi Mudaliar
Since the beginning of the 21st century, more Americans side with legalizing both recreational and medical marijuana. This positive movement towards a more ‘pro-marijuana’ world has led to a substantial change politically and socioeconomically. In fact, in 2021, nearly 8 states—Alabama, Connecticut, New York—to name a few, legalized recreational cannabis.
Oregon first legalized weed in 2014; the Initiative referred to as Measure 91 actively allows adults aged 21 years and over to possess and use cannabis for recreational use legally. Briefly, the possession limits are as follows:
- An adult can possess no more than 8 ounces of usable marijuana (flowers or dried leaf).
- Up to 1 ounce of concentrate or cannabinoid extract.
- No more than 4 marijuana plants.
Oregon Marijuana Crime Rates and Youth Use
Perhaps one of the most proposed theories opponents may have is whether or not marijuana legalization leads to an increase in the crime rate? This is indeed a fair concern, one which has been researched and studied across many states. Unfortunately, it is hard to accurately determine if crime rates have increased or decreased since Oregon legalized recreational marijuana. To evaluate this further, I took a look at a 2019 study that examined data from 38 states; this study found that states which decriminalized marijuana saw a 131.28 per 100,000 population decrease in adult arrest rate. In comparison, a 168.50% decrease in arrest rate per 100,000 population was noted in states which legalized marijuana.
I think one of the most important arguments made by proponents of marijuana legalization relates to the redirection of substantial resources, such as the police force, to more critical matters. For example, it’s fair to wonder if marijuana legalization leads to decreased violent crime rates. Looking into this further, I came across a reasonably promising study that assessed the effects of marijuana legalization on clearance rates for violent crimes. The 2020 study found that legalizing marijuana in Oregon led to a significant increase in the crime clearance rate, specifically violent crime. The reasoning for the results is simple: as we legalize marijuana—a drug usually not associated with violent crime—the state can effectively allocate police resources to solve and deal with more violent crime.
Does Marijuana Legalization Lead to An Increase in Youth Use?
Legalizing marijuana may increase the rate of use amongst adolescents—it’s a plausible argument! By making recreational marijuana more readily available, the state may see increased use amongst youth. So what does the research say?
- Oregon Health Authority published data showing that in 2017, 14% of 8th-graders and 40% of 11th-graders reported ever using marijuana.
- Another 2020 study saw that the legalization of marijuana was indeed associated with an increase in use amongst adolescents.
Now, it’s important to mention that these results are only specific to the state of Oregon. Various other studies were performed in other states where weed is legal to show different results.
- For example, Healthy Kids Colorado show no link and/or evidence of increased cannabis consumption amongst youth post-legalization
Legalizing Weed in Oregon Helps the Economy
Legalizing marijuana state-wide has shown to significant effects on Oregon’s economy. Since recreational pot was legalized, economists saw a gradual but promising growth in labor income and employment rate. True, during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic there was a slight dip in employment rate and wages, but this was to be expected. Now—post-COVID—economists forecast that marijuana sales are expected to rise, as Oregon’s population sees an increase in income and spending growth.
This seems promising as each year, states like Colorado, Oregon, and Nevada collect more than $100 million in taxes, further fueling the booming cannabis industry. In fact, in 2021, Oregon saw a 23.5% increase in recreational marijuana sales cracking the $1.1 billion U.S. dollar mark. So, what does Oregon do with all its marijuana tax money? It’s quite simple actually, the state strategically places the revenue earned into industries focused on combating substance abuse and promoting better well-being. These industries not only play a major role in benefiting society, but they also aid in preventing marijuana use amongst youth. The
Oregon marijuana tax revenue distribution can be summarized below.
- Drug Treatment and Recovery Services Fund
- State School Fund (40%)
- Mental Health, Alcoholism, and Drug Services (20%)
- Oregon State Police (15%)
- Oregon Health Authority, for Drug Treatment and Prevention (5%)
- Cites and state counties (20%)
Does Legalizing Marijuana Increase Employment Rate?
Assessing the employment rate post-legalization is an excellent indicator of how cannabis legalization affects the economy. Regarding employment rates in Oregon, we don’t have enough information to hypothesize the effects of legal weed on the job industry. But, we can analyze other states and the nation as a whole. For instance, Stelton-Holtmeier et al., 2019 reported that in 2020 the U.S. legal cannabis industry would provide approximately 240,000-295,000 jobs, and things can only get better. Marijuana Business Factbook estimates that by 2022 employment rates within the legal marijuana industry may tip the scales by up to 81% providing more than 470,000 jobs to U.S. citizens across the nation.
Undoubtedly, people of color have, more often than not, succumbed to cannabis-related convictions. In fact, before legalizing marijuana, black people in Oregon were 4x more likely to get arrested for marijuana possession. But, things could change! For example, legalization in New York and Washington has opened more doors for people of color. In fact, the United Food and Commerical Workers reported that people of color working in the cannabis industry earn up to 32% more in wages and salaries. Economist Josh Lehner from the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis makes mention of a similar trend— labor income is booming as of 2021, and moving towards 2022, wages and salaries peak above 8%.
Legalizing marijuana in Oregon can affect the economy in many ways. A lot of the research, studies, and surveys look at the short-term effects of marijuana legalization on crime clearance, adolescents, and the economy. So, we need more research to support the arguments made by both proponents and opponents of marijuana legalization in Oregon. For now, we can conclusively say that the legal marijuana industry has improved employment rates across the U.S.—a positive economic effect. However, data regarding crime rates post-legalization remains inconclusive.