The benefits of cannabis legalization are as numerous as they are varied, but in our world of instant information and quick news cycles, only a few are covered with any regularity. The subject that seems to be in favor right now when pundits and journalists talk about marijuana legalization is the racial justice aspect of marijuana prohibition.
To be sure, racial inequalities when it comes to who is arrested for marijuana crimes are real and have been devastating minority communities for decades. And those inequalities will disappear when people are no longer arrested for marijuana crimes; one of many serious problems that come with prohibition that will be remedied by legalization.
While other benefits of legalization are important and often overlooked, the most overlooked benefit of legalization is also one that affects the most people: economic growth.
Whether or not you use cannabis or will ever use cannabis, you can still benefit from the increased economic activity that legalized growing and sales can bring. Everyone benefits from more jobs and more capital investment in their area.
A town in New Zealand recently profiled by The New York Times is a small and perfect example of this phenomenon. The people in the town of Ruatoria are hoping that legalized medical cannabis will be their saving grace.
“You’ve got whole entire families leaving because there’s no work and it’s a struggle to live,” said Donette Kupenga, owner of Ruatoria’s only cafe, Hati Nati. “Employment would make a huge difference.”
Two men from Ruatoria have started a company called Hikurangi Cannabis and they say they hope to bring up to 100 jobs to the town in the next two years.
This is a story that happens everywhere cannabis is made legal, whether for medical or recreational purposes. Legal marijuana growing, processing, transporting, testing and selling are all things that create jobs – and the less restrictive the laws surrounding cannabis, the more economic activity that can be created.
It may make some feel better to focus on the more narrow benefits of legalization, and that’s their prerogative. But we must always remember that cannabis legalization and sales can help everyone – whether they support marijuana law reform or not.
When people are struggling to make ends meet, platitudes and focus on social justice can only go so far. We can never lose sight of the fact that jobs and economic activity are sometimes the only thing that can save families – or even entire towns.