Recently, in November 2020, the presidential elections took reasonable limelight in the US. However, it surely wasn’t the only ballot event drawing people’s attention at the time. Amid the questions and answers about our new president-elect, there was a lot more going on in the country, including the changes in the marijuana world being quite notable.
On Nov 4th, 2020, following the footmarks of Colorado, California, and likes, 4 states of the US- Arizona, Montana, New Jersey & South Dakota- legalized the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Moreover, Mississippi voted in favor of medical marijuana in the state. With that being done, there’s one question that many marijuana enthusiasts are asking now-
“Where is the future of marijuana headed?”
With five more states legalizing the herb, one thing is quite clear- marijuana is losing its decades-long dark reputation for good. Here are the five main takeaways from the recent cannabis legalization in five more states.
Not long ago, the stance of the US for marijuana was totally on the defensive side. In 1937, with the passing of the Marijuana Tax Act, the US criminalized marijuana. It remained that way until 1969 when the supreme court deemed the act unconstitutional. However, even then, the herb wasn’t legalized again. The court, instead, asked the federal government to create a Control Substance Act and place the herb under that. Cannabis, even today, is a Schedule I drug as per the controlled substance act.
Given the distinction between the powers of the federal and state governments, though, states could run their own medical marijuana programs. In 1996, California became the first state to do so. Since then, 35 states and D.C. have legalized medical marijuana- South Dakota and Mississippi being the latest addition to the list.
In 2012, states even started legalizing recreational use of cannabis- Colorado and Washington being the pioneer. And the latest Nov 2020 vote made the list count to 15.
Well okay, it doesn’t mean the federal government will also follow suit and legalizing the use of marijuana. However, there’s a lot going that way right now.
The five states legalized marijuana a day after the presidential vote. This surely tells us what the people of the country wanted to convey to their new president-elect. The simultaneous marijuana legalization in five states clearly tells us that the people of the US are ready for it to happen at the federal level too. And they won’t sit back until they make it happen.
People are, in fact, doing everything in their power to make way for federal legalization. The result of the 2020 presidential elections is a clear example of it. People of the country didn’t just vote for their president this time, but also for marijuana. And the result of this is in front of us with the house of representatives passing the MORE (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement) act. The current set of representatives understand the importance of the subject, not only for the people but for themselves. They surely know that they won’t be able to stay in power for long if not for federal legalization.
Marijuana legalization federally, however, isn’t as convenient as said. The Senate is still under the hands of Republican leader Mitch McConnel, who is completely against marijuana legalization. But if the Democrats are able to hold the Senate as well somehow, legal marijuana at the federal level might become a reality.
The one thing that we found common in the briefs of legalization propositions of all the latest pro-cannabis states is the focus on damage control and restoration.
But what damage are we talking about here?
See, since cannabis was criminalized in the US, a lot has been done to control its use. As per the ACLU’s original analysis, between the years 2001 and 2010, not less than 8.2 million people were arrested for a link with marijuana. Out of this, 88 percent were taken into custody just for having the drug with them. Now, one of the most notable features of this war against marijuana that we noticed from this analysis was the racial bias.
Do you know, despite an almost equal use, blacks were arrested in any marijuana-related cases 3.7 times more than whites? This is the damage we were talking about.
With marijuana becoming legal in their jurisdiction, these five states will be working on restorative justice. The laws will focus on implementing social equity when it comes to marijuana. For instance, New Jersey is planning on giving at least 25 percent of legal marijuana licenses to people living in areas most affected by the war on drugs in the state. Montana and Arizona have also included some components focussing on criminal justice, such as expungement of criminal records and resentencing, into their propositions.
If done right, these measures will surely help repair some harm done to a specific section of people.
The legalization of marijuana surely has many financial benefits. And this is going to be the case with these five states too. Here’s how we see the great fiscal benefits to the states due to cannabis legalization to be.
In states where cannabis is legal, whether, for medicinal or recreational purposes, the herb is contributing significantly to the revenue. The sales of the herb, in fact, have been better than expected in the past few years. As per the latest report by BDS Analytics, in 2019, the sales of cannabis in the US were worth more than $12.2 billion. And these numbers are expected to rise to around $31 billion by 2024.
In pro-cannabis states, the herb has been a major contributor to the tax revenue. And in newly legalized states too now, propositions are including extra taxes on recreational marijuana, laying the stepping stones for better revenue in-flow.
Although cannabis is legal in only two-third of the states currently, it is one of the fastest-growing job producers in the US. As per a 2020 Leafly report, legal marijuana supports at least 243 thousand full-time jobs in the country. This is around 15 percent more than the previous year.
With more states legalizing marijuana, the number is going to increase at an even higher rate.
The legalization of marijuana will also help these five states save significant money. Currently, the herb is illegal at the federal level. And federal marijuana enforcement alone costs states billions of dollars. As per a 2013 report by ALCU, at that time, the US was spending around $3.2 billion annually on the war against marijuana. By legalizing the herb, either for medical or recreational purposes, states can easily save this money.
With recreational marijuana becoming legal, the citizens of these four states might think they’d not need a medical marijuana card anymore. However, that perhaps isn’t going to be the case.
Now, we are not saying you can’t use recreational cannabis for medicinal purposes. However, recreational legalization is definitely not the end of medical marijuana cards. And a really solid proof of it is the state of California. California legalized adult-use marijuana in the year 2018. However, even today, there are more than 1.9 million users with an MMJ card.
A very obvious reason for this is the so many benefits that a medical marijuana card offers. See, as a recreational user, you surely can use the herb freely. However, there still are many limitations, including lower possession limits, higher costs, higher age limits. With a medical marijuana card, you can easily circumvent these restrictions in recreational states. And these benefits are going to be there in the newly legalized states too.
With that said, even after the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes in four more states, medical marijuana cards aren’t going anywhere.
How can we say that?
Well, there is a lot going on that way right now. The people of the US have just voted in favor of marijuana in five more states. With this, more than 237 million people in the country now live in a pro-marijuana state now. This accounts for one in every three people. Furthermore, the results of the latest presidential elections have also clarified the intent of voters in the country. The people of the US do want this war on drugs in America to end.
To further solidify the above statement, the US didn’t just say yes to cannabis. In fact, various states have even started to decriminalize other psychedelic substances. Oregon recently approved two measures. Measure 109 has legalized the use of psychedelics for medicinal purposes. And Measure 110 decriminalized the personal use of all drugs, including cocaine, meth, and heroin.
Now, the above measures are surely slow but steady blows on the ongoing war on drugs in the US. And with time, we may finally witness it coming to an end.