The news: Marijuana legalization has state legislators seeing green — not the plant kind but the money kind.
Recreational marijuana use is now legal in Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon. Several other states, including California, are expected to introduce legalization measures by 2017.
But state governments aren't doing this just because they want teenagers and 20-somethings to get stoned with impunity. They're doing it because pot is the most profitable cash crop.
These fantastic graphics from Information is Beautiful breaks down the economic value of marijuana as a cash crop.
As you can see, marijuana far outstrips other crops in terms of revenue thanks to the $300 billion it brings in annually. It also makes more money per square kilometer than any other plant currently grown by humans.
By legalizing weed, states can harness this cash flow. Colorado alone expects marijuana tax revenue to hit $134 million since the state's marijuana industry is projecting $1 billion in sales this fiscal year. Officials estimate recreational pot use is responsible for $600 million of that $1 billion.
There are other benefits to legalizing weed besides money. Legal pot causes crime rates to plummet. In 2013, marijuana offenses made up almost 50% of all drug arrests in the United States. Without having to pursue marijuana dealers and similar crimes, Colorado saved between $12 million and $40 million. Furthermore, since Colorado legalized pot, at the start of the year, the murder rate in Denver dropped by a stunning 42.1%.
And, as Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance told Mic last year, decriminalizing pot will also help solve America's mass incarceration problem. As stated above, a large number of drug arrests pertain to pot. Over 8 million pot arrests were made between 2001 and 2010. It's no wonder the United States has one quarter of the world's prison population. Just imagine how many fewer prisoners there'd be if weed were legal.
The more people who can legally toke up, the better. That's not opinion, that's fact.