America’s Shifting Marijuana Landscape – How Things Will Change After the Midterms

The United States is undergoing a major revolution – and although it has little to do with politics at face value, many states are finding themselves swept up in a political tornado.

The trend toward cannabis legalization is continuing on into the midterms as four states prepare to vote on ballots that include initiatives for the legalization of both medicinal and recreational marijuana. Among them are Michigan and North Dakota, both of whom will decide whether the drug should be legal across the board. MIssouri and Utah, on the other hand, will vote strictly on its medicinal legalization.

Will they pass? Political pundits aren’t sure, but recent polls suggest that all four state ballots have a high likelihood of doing so.

It makes a lot of sense. Over 60% of all American are pro-legalization at all levels, medicinal and recreational. This is a sharp transition from the fears over marijuana usage that plagued the country from the late 1930s onward. These attitudes are politcailly-blind, too – representatives from both the Republican and Democratic party are in favor of legalizing marijuana.

Why the Sudden Change?

Let’s take a trip back to 1970. At this time, marijuana was illegal according to the federal Controlled Substances Act, listed clearly as a Schedule I drug. This placed it in the same category as drugs like LSD, heroin, and even ecstasy. It had no accepted medicinal use.

California was the first to reject this idea, legalizing medicinal marijuana in 1996. Other states, like Alaska, Washington, and Maine, quickly joined them in subsequent years before Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. Although some states have specified that only marijuana with limited THC and CBD content will be allowed under the letter of the law, some have liberally accepted all forms of marijuana sales and distribution.

The legalization of marijuana would satisfy constituents and also boost tax revenue in states where it is legal. The United States would be one of the last countries to jump on the marijuana legalization bandwagon. In Canada, marijuana is legal at a national level, and while the States have yet to legalize marijuana federally, many states are pushing onward toward legalization.

Marijuana laws have taken a sharp turn in the last two decades. Not only have many states set precedents in establishing their own clear marijuana laws, but there is expanding public support for marijuana legalization as well as a change in enforcement policy at the national level. Congress and state policymakers alike are recognizing the need to support legalization and are doing so in droves.

Where is Marijuana Currently Legal in the United States?

Currently, marijuana is legal for recreational use in Washington, D.C., Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. While Vermont and Washington, D.C. have not yet legalized commercial sales, you can grow your own marijuana from seeds or clones (and, of course, possess it) without any legal ramifications.

Many more states – twenty-two, to be specific – have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. A common treatment for epilepsy, cancer, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, and other medical conditions, medical marijuana is now legal in all the aforementioned states as well as Arizona, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida, New Mexico, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and several others.

Should the four states about to vote on marijuana legalization pass their ballots, over fifty percent of all states will offer access to medical marijuana.

The work won’t end there, however. States will need to find ways to regulate their markets to avoid federal preemption, while market participants like users and dispensary owners will need to find a way to avoid federal prosecution. In addition, banks can’t always provide services to marijuana-related businesses, making it nearly impossible for businesses to operate unless they deal solely in cash.

Marijuana Legalization – the New Normal?

Marijuana legalization is a unique issue in that it has, across the board, bipartisan support. Very few issues come close to matching this growing trend. Public opinion polls put support for medical marijuana at 93% nationwide in 2017 – there is overwhelming support even among typically less supportive groups like women, Republicans, and more.

The next step is for the Trump administration to take on specific marijuana policy at the federal level. Statehouse policymaking continues to expand, and as federal policymakers realize the major conflict between state and federal laws, they are beginning to actively work to address them.

The recognition of this dissonance is a major step toward permanent change,and it will help state and federal stakeholders alike burn toward a brighter future – together.

 

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