With 29 States now offering legal medical cannabis, we have a world of emperical evidence from a similar society that answers a simple question - "If we legalise medical cannabis what will happen?"
Now as a child of the "demon weed" generation, I thought once medical cannabis was licensed hell would open up. Actually when half of America legalised medical cannabis nothing bad happened. Society did not fall apart, addiction rates actually fell not rose, and lives were saved.
The Human dividend
Lives saved: Fatal Prescription overdoses fell with 8000 lives saved annually and this is increasing as States use medical cannabis to fight the opioid epidemic.
Domestic violence: down
Violent crime: down
Fatal traffic accidents: down
Alcohol abuse: down
Smoking rates: down
ER Visits: down - prescription overdoses are a major cause of ER visits
The Economic Dividend
Policing costs: down as criminals are driven out of the industry and lose a hugely profitable base.
Saving in Government Spending on health care: Estimates around USD$500 million in the States that have approved Medical Cannabis long enough to produce data. 80% of medical cannabis users eliminate or reduce their use of prescription pharmaceuticals. As those prescriptions are funded by the taxpayer through the PBS, Government will see a significant reduction in the cost of the PBS. There has been a reduction in medical visits and hospitalisations as people are able to treat their conditions with a simple medical cannabis vape. Our Medicare system offers a higher level of government support, so I would expect savings in Australia would certainly be a half billion+.
Economic Stimulus: Sales of medical cannabis in 2016 were USD$5.6 billion. The GDP of the 23 States that have legalised medical cannabis represent about 5 times Australia's GDP, so we are certainly looking at medical cannabis being a billion dollar industry here in Australia and possibly closer to $2 billion.
Employment: Payrolls seem to averaging 20% of sales, suggesting medical cannabis has contributed over USD$1 billion in wages, about 2/3rds full time and 1/3rd casual. So that will take some pressure of our Social Security budget as people move from unemployment benefits to gainful employment.
Taxes are running at average 15% of sales, however medical cannabis in Australia is currently being exempted from GST, so Australian taxation revenue will be more indirect - every $1 in wages in Australia loses an average of 25% in tax, so certainly the tax take will be significant.
Productivity: Productivity actually increased. I thought we would see a reduction in productivity as people turn up to work stoned. What we now know is that people are turning up to work stoned NOW on prescription opioids, or ringing in sick as the pain or the medication makes work impossible. As people move over from prescription opioids to medical cannabis, they are able to function better not worse. So days worked and productivity of those days has actually increased. This is a significant benefit to employers and to the economy.
For a list of articles on the emperical data stemming from legal cannabis jurisdictions click here.