With the war on drugs nearly up in smoke, Americans have all but given a green light to the recreational legalization of cannabis. In 2020, cannabis legalization has grown to include 11 states and the District of Columbia embracing full recreational use, and 33 going medical. The debate is over, and the American market is coming to the consensus that cannabis is the future for more than just medicinal use. With the manufacturing and industrial decline that the eastern part of the country has experienced, there is no better time than now for the remainder of the American Midwest and East Coast to pursue full recreational legalization and, in turn, open the doors to thousands of jobs and potentially billions in revenue.
In the past few years, Michigan, Illinois, and Massachusetts have all legalized recreational pot use, possession, and distribution, and their residents have experienced the boom that comes from a new potentially billion dollar industry in their states This November, New Jersey has legalization on the ballot, while Pennsylvania’s Democratic Governor Tom Wolf pushes his state legislature towards legalization. As these strategically situated states inch closer to full legalization, the pressure is on their neighbors to light up the way to legalize recreational use across the region. Should Pennsylvania and New Jersey choose to adopt recreational use as law, nearby Ohio, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island may very well follow suit—or have little choice but to do so.
While states like Michigan and Illinois begin to bridge the geographical gap between the expanding markets of American coastal states, surrounding states miss out. As the 2019 novel coronavirus leads to record unemployment and job losses for millions of Americans, there is an obvious opportunity for businesses and state governments to use the green to get the green. American infrastructure—schools, roads, highways, bridges, dams, parks, and airports are crumbling. Once unthinkable, many American cities lack access to clean drinking water. While European and Asian nations embrace mass public transit with high speed rail projects, American public transit systems are major decline from aging technology and facilities. These problems will cost the American taxpayer trillions of dollars, and with the price tag slowing down repairs, voters and state legislatures have an opportunity to help rake in tax dollars from legalizing recreational cannabis. American cities in the Midwest and East Coast are especially in need of the financial support that the current tax base has not been able to keep afloat. By legalizing cannabis in these already medicinally legal states, and learning from those that have been successful doing so, businesses are empowered to invest in more commercial and manufacturing space, and, perhaps more importantly, in Americans desperate for new opportunities in a flailing economy reeling from the loss of manufacturing to foreign markets.
Our home state, Ohio, is in a unique position geographically and financially, being sandwiched between many legal or soon-to-be legal states and with a population eager to improve its infrastructure, invest in new businesses, and to bring back jobs. Ohio, the birthplace of aviation, is a state that embraces innovation, has a “whatever it takes” attitudes, and is ripe for recreational legalization. The benefits of a rec market in Ohio go beyond tax revenue, as the state’s largest employers are hospitals, universities, and retailers. Once a strong automobile manufacturing hub of the Rust Belt, the loss of General Motors before coronavirus has been a curse to the state’s economy and to the thousands of skilled workers laid off. Should Ohio’s state leadership and legislature pursue legalization, they would have an opportunity to create thousands of new jobs at a time when the state unemployment rate is nearly 9%. For our families and our future, the time to invest in Ohio is now. The time for recreational cannabis legalization is now.