Adult-use Legalization Laws not Associated with Adverse Impacts on Public Health

Apr 15, 2021 at 02:40 pm by pj




When it comes to cannabis legalization, a common strategy by prohibitionists is to use “doom and gloom” or “fear of the unknown” to convince constituents or voters that legal cannabis will make our society much worse, and the “sky will fall” and “the world will end” if cannabis is made legal (for adult use).  However, a recent comprehensive analysis report by the CATO Institute studied the effect of state marijuana adult use legalization across the United States.  The report concluded that the enactment of statewide laws regulating the adult use, production, and retail sale of cannabis is not associated with significant adverse impacts on public health.  A link to the report is below:

The Effect of State Marijuana Legalizations: 2021 Update | Cato Institute

The report went through data prior to adult use cannabis legalization in states, and after legalization to assess claims that public health would decrease and society would be worse off than keeping cannabis illegal. The data has created the following objective facts:

  • Since the 1970s, which started the first wave of marijuana decriminalization by states, marijuana use by state residents did not change in response to relaxed restrictions.
  • Increase in use of cannabis in states who have recently legalized recreational/adult use cannabis started years before full recreational legalization- Therefore, cannabis use was increasing prior to legalization and has not demonstrated a significant increase in usage since full legalization.
  • Marijuana use rates in children- Many prohibitionists have fought legalization spouting fear tactics of many children getting “hooked” on cannabis if made legal. However, the data shows that in the six states that have post-legalization data, Maine, Massachusetts, Alaska, and Colorado- adolescent use of cannabis decreased in the years leading up to legalization.  Then, after legalization, usage rates returned to typical usage rates prior to legalization but have not continued to increased past previous usage rates.
  • Alcohol usage when cannabis is legalized - The report found that alcohol usage went up a few percentage points in some states (Washington State - 1 percent, California - 1.9 percent, Massachusetts - 2.3 percent) after cannabis legalization. However, the same report found Colorado, Maine, and Alaska, and Nevada decreased alcohol consumption approximately 1 percent when cannabis was made legal. 
  • Suicides and Mental Health- after studying all the data in legal states (before and after legalization of cannabis), the researchers could find no statistical difference in the number of suicides in legal states before or after cannabis legalization.
  • Crime- Cannabis related offenses have plummeted due to cannabis being legal in certain states (which is to be expected). However, when reviewing data on violent crime in these states, violent crime has neither soared nor plummeted in the wake of marijuana legalization. 
  • Road Safety- Overall, the data extrapolated could not find any correlation between an increase or decrease in traffic fatalities among states that have legalized cannabis.
  • Economic/ Budget impacts- The largest impact that was identified from the study was economic impact via state tax revenues. The initial tax revenue projections have been dramatically exceeded by actual revenues.  Colorado now collects $20 million per month from adult use cannabis.  Washington State collected $70 million in sales tax revenue in the first year of sales (double the projected tax revenue). Oregon had projected $2-$3million per month in sales tax for cannabis, but are actually recording $10 million per month.  California is now collecting $50 million per month in cannabis tax revenue. 


Cannabis legalization has not led to society’s downfall, as many prohibitionists have predicted.  Also, we now see with this report we that legal cannabis is very good for generating tax revenue.  As more data becomes available, you will start to see other areas of society and the economy that will be positively affected from the legalization of cannabis for adult use. 

The biggest area globally that will be impacted with cannabis being made legal for adult use in America and other countries is health care costs.  As cannabis becomes more mainstream, more people will start using cannabis as a “wellness” product, and not so much to get “high” or stoned. You will begin to see nutritional supplement products with cannabinoids in them (low dose THC, CBD, CBG, CBN, etc.) being used by millions of people for some medical reason – sleep, anxiety, depression, pain, etc. 

This increase in use of legal cannabis products for adults and medical cannabis (by prescription), will make our population more healthy and less susceptible to chronic health problems of tobacco smoking, alcohol, and diabetes.  We are already starting to see a decrease in number of monthly prescriptions for patients who start using cannabis by 2-3 prescriptions per month.  Imagine a country like Germany that has socialized medicine paid for by the government.  If the German population can decrease their prescriptions per month by 2-3 prescription drugs by starting to use cannabis, the entire German population will be healthier and save the Government billions in prescription drug costs. 

Cannabis will continue to be legalized across the USA and the world.  If you are trying to help your state or country legalize, use this report and data to assist in your efforts. 


Michael C. Patterson, founder and CEO of U.S. Cannabis Pharmaceutical Research & Development of Melbourne, is a consultant for the development of the medical marijuana industry nationwide and in Florida. He serves as a consultant to Gerson Lehrman Group, New York and helps educate GLG partners on specific investment strategies and public policy regarding Medical Marijuana in the U.S. and Internationally. He can be reached at

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