The Positive Impact of Cannabis Legalisation: A Closer Look at Health and Economic Benefits

The Positive Impact of Cannabis Legalisation: A Closer Look at Health and Economic Benefits

A review of US studies suggests cannabis legalisation can lead to various public health and economic advantages

In light of recent findings from the United States, UK legislators are being urged to acknowledge the health and economic benefits of cannabis. A review of studies conducted between 2013 and 2020 reveals numerous positive public health outcomes associated with medical cannabis legalisation, including reduced crime rates, traffic fatalities, suicides, and decreased alcohol and tobacco consumption.

Currently, 36 states in the US have legalised medical cannabis, while 18 have legalised it for recreational use. One major concern raised by regulators and public health bodies is the potential increase in consumption among young people. However, the review found little credible evidence supporting this notion. In contrast, it discovered convincing evidence that legalisation led to a decrease in alcohol consumption among young adults. This reduction in alcohol use may also improve mental health and potentially result in fewer suicides.

The review further revealed that medical cannabis legalisation had little impact on encouraging tobacco smoking. In fact, it may have discouraged its use. Legal access to medical cannabis was also linked to reductions in prescription medications for conditions such as depression, anxiety, and epilepsy. While it appears to reduce sickness-related absences and workplace injuries, more research is needed in this area.

The effect of medical cannabis legalisation on road safety has also been a subject of interest. The review found evidence that road safety improved following medical cannabis legalisation, as it may discourage drunk driving, which is considered dangerous.

Legalising cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes has strong evidence supporting its role in reducing non-drug related crimes. Some studies have found that medical cannabis laws led to fewer homicides and assaults, while another suggested that recreational legalisation was associated with a reduction in rapes and thefts.

There is limited data on the public health impacts of legalising recreational cannabis, and the authors of the review believe that stronger conclusions can be drawn when more data is collected from states that have recently legalised recreational marijuana.

In the UK, the Cannabis Industry Council (CIC) and Drug Science have commissioned independent research into the health-economic impact of expanding chronic pain treatment with cannabis medicines. This research is expected to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of prescribing cannabis through the NHS for chronic pain. Furthermore, the CIC is calling for greater public awareness of the legality of medicinal cannabis in the UK to increase patient numbers.

In 2021, Maple Tree Consultants published 10 government recommendations for establishing a successful medical cannabis sector, highlighting how the industry could help grow the economy in the aftermath of Brexit and the pandemic. The report estimates that if just half of the 1.4 million people believed to be self-medicating with cannabis could obtain a medical prescription, the potential value would be over £2 billion.

Hannah Deacon, director of Maple Tree and co-author of the report, stated that the government is missing a huge opportunity by not supporting a sector that could create around 100,000 new jobs and generate a potential £2 billion a year in tax revenue for the Treasury.

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