Marijuana use among college students is at a three decade high, with 38% of full-time college students reported using marijuana last year according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
A possible reason for the influx of college-age marijuana users is the legalization of recreational marijuana in 18 states and decriminalization in 13 states. In Kansas, however, the drug remains illegal.
That said, Douglas County recently took steps to decriminalize marijuana. In 2019, District Attorney Charles Branson lowered the fine for marijuana possession under 32 grams to one dollar, citing the disproportionate impact possession laws have on the poor population and people of color.
Douglas County's strides toward marijuana decriminalization are good, but full legalization statewide would be optimal. Not only would the legalized recreational marijuana yield positive effects for consumers, but it would generate a substantial revenue stream for the state.
This year, cannabis sales reached $17.5 billion, as 30% of consumers reported shopping for cannabis products more often.
States are able to levy tax rates as high as 38% on marijuana, promising significant financial benefits from opening dispensaries and generating more revenue than the accumulation of $1 possession fines.
Locations that have dispensaries also lead to increased housing values because of the increase in jobs and economic growth that legalization brings. Contrary to popular belief, locations with dispensaries are not associated with increased criminal activity and sometimes lead to reduction of crime.
From 2017 to 2018, marijuana vaping doubled among college students. Amid increasing popularity, over one thousand people were hospitalized in 2019 with lung injuries due to unregulated marijuana vaping cartridges, many of which contained potentially harmful chemicals or laced drugs.
There have also been multiple overdoses reportedly attributed to marijuana laced with the fatal drug, fentanyl.
If Kansas legalized marijuana, products like vaping cartridges would have to go through rigorous testing in order to be sold in a dispensary, minimizing the risk of contaminated cartridges and other harmful forms of marijuana.
Legalizing recreational marijuana will also decrease binge drinking among college students and decrease opioid overdose mortality, according to multiple studies conducted by the National Library of Medicine.
Legalization offers safer solutions to those who already use marijuana and is not directly linked to any major problems expected from the legislation.
Marijuana regulation and legalization offers vast financial, social and health benefits. It is time for Kansas to take the last step and fully legalize recreational marijuana and reap the rewards it would likely bring.