In the United States, marijuana used to have a bad reputation.
Now, more than two out of every three people in the United States support legalizing cannabis, and state laws are reflecting that shift in opinion. Medical marijuana is currently legal in 33 states plus Washington, D.C., and in 10 of those states and the nation’s capital, adults over the age of 21 can legally buy marijuana for recreational use.
Government officials are even starting to push for nation-wide cannabis legalization — and not just because they think more people should be getting high.
Here are seven ways experts predict cannabis legalization will lead to a better future:
1. Cannabis is already creating jobs more quickly than any other industry — and the number of new jobs is expected to keep increasing as more places legalize marijuana.
2. Scientists believe legalization could make it easier for them to develop cannabis-based medical treatments. One such medication is already helping children cope with a rare, previously untreatable form of seizure-causing epilepsy, and early studies show the plant’s potential to treat everything from brain aging to psychosis.
3. Legalization gives governments the opportunity to regulate cannabis cultivation, thereby ensuring farmers aren’t allowed to damage the environment while growing their crops.
4. It also decreases the strain on the justice system, freeing up police — and billions of dollars in state money — to fight other criminal activity.
5. Experts are hopeful cannabis could help end the opioid crisis by easing the symptoms of withdrawal.
6. The taxes from cannabis sales could go toward improving any number of societal institutions. Oregon, where recreational marijuana is legal, recently dedicated millions in cannabis taxes to its schools and public health services.
7. By driving down cannabis costs, legalization also drives cartels and black-market dealers out of business — taking violent activity along with them.
More on cannabis: New Senate Bill Would Legalize Marijuana Nationwide