Although conservatives largely won individual races in the 2016 election, they largely lost when it came to referendums on the issues in each state. In particular, pro-marijuana legislation nearly swept the referendums that it appeared on in 9 different states. That is the sort of popular mandate that is unlikely to reverse. And so marijuana legislation barrels closer to becoming a national reality like an inevitability. What does this mean for our society though? And where does the country stand in the dust of one of the most contentious elections that our nation has seen in hundreds of years. Here is some information about the current state of marijuana legislation, and where it stands to go from here…
Medical marijuana legalization
In this past election, four different states, Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota, all voted to legalize the use of medical marijuana. This brings the total number of states where it is legal to use marijuana for medical purposes to 28, not including Washington D.C.. This means that over half of the states in the Union have now legalized medical marijuana, effectively turning the tide of the argument on medical marijuana. This is a fascinating trend, considering that marijuana is still considered a Class 1 substance by the federal government, and is still heavily criminalized by the DEA.
However, President Obama has recently came out in favor of removing marijuana from its Class 1 controlled substance status, making him the first sitting president to have ever done so. While meaningful, this does not necessarily have any true effect on policy, since Obama is in the lame duck portion of his presidency. As of now, it remains unclear what the incoming Trump organization’s stance on marijuana will be. Regardless, it is definitely time for the nation to have a very serious and reasonable discussion about the realities of medical marijuana, and whether or not it truly works. On this topic, there is still a need for plenty more research to be done, as stated in this informative article here.
Recreational marijuana legalization
Aside from medical marijuana, the other major conversation that needs to happen about marijuana legalization is recreational marijuana. In this past election, five different states, Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada, all had a vote to determine whether or not to legalize recreational marijuana. The only state that did not pass the measure was Arizona, where it lost by 3.9%. However, based on the current momentum of marijuana legislation, it is likely that another referendum in 4 years would likely pass in that same state, or come even closer.
Currently, with the addition of these new states, that puts the number of states that have legalized recreational marijuana at 8. It also means recreational legalization is a reality on the entire West Coast. However, that number is likely to continue to grow, and will almost certainly double, if not triple, within the decade. For this exact reason, it is imperative to have a sober discussion about the effects that this will have on our society. The best way to do this is to look at the effects that it has already had in states where it is legalized, as they provide the best benchmark example of what we can come to expect from recreational legalization.
Based on the information available, there have been many positives and a few negatives that have been caused by marijuana legalization. First of all, it has had a tremendous economic impact on states like Colorado and Washington, where taxes and new revenue have well-over paid for the enforcement on new regulations. However, law enforcement has stated that it is incredibly enforce DUI laws with marijuana, at least when compared to alcohol.
One for certain thing is that public opinion on marijuana legalization has definitely shifted. Based on a Gallup poll from 2015, 58% of Americans currently believe that marijuana should be legalized for recreational use (these numbers are even higher for medical use). In 2009, this number had barely broken 40%. These numbers are likely to exponentially climb, making marijuana legalization an inevitable reality. One thing is for certain, though, nearly the entire country believes that criminalization for marijuana use needs to be reined in.