There is no simple way for explaining what is happening in the world right now. Between the novel yet notorious Coronavirus rapidly spreading across the globe, a quickly approaching presidential election, confirmed UFOs, and murder hornets (yep, that’s a thing now too), it seems like we're all a part of the last season in a dystopian TV series where the writers are throwing out every idea they ever had before production ends. To be quite honest during this unpredictable time, legalization of recreational marijuana might not be in the forefront of everyone's mind, but according to Pew Research Center it is for roughly 68% of Americans.
Currently, 11 states and the District of Columbia have fully legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. This means the drug is available for medical and recreational users and has been decriminalized. Decriminalization is the action of ceasing to treat something as a criminal offense. In regards to marijuana, decriminalization typically means no arrest, no prison time, or criminal record for first-time, small-amount possession, and in most cases, it is treated like a traffic offense. 33 states have legalized medical marijuana; 26 states, including the aforementioned legalized states, have passed laws fully or partially decriminalizing certain marijuana offenses; however, 11 other states deem the drug fully illegal. According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), over the last eight years nearly 100 localities have enacted municipal laws, a law specific to a particular county, either fully or partially decriminalizing minor marijuana possessions, but it’s important to recognize this does not account for citywide ordinances.
Okay pause. That is a lot to digest. Let's dive deeper.
- 11 states and the District of Columbia have fully legalized marijuana.
- 11 states consider marijuana fully ILLEGAL.
- 15 states that are not fully legal have decriminalized some offenses + the 11 fully legal states = 26 states total with decriminalization laws that all vary vastly from one another.
- 33 states total have legalized medicinal marijuana, 10 of those states are not decriminalized, 12 of them support both medicinal and decriminalization, and the remaining 11 are fully legalized.
- 6 states only allow CBD oil rather than marijuana to be sold medicinally; all of these states have not decriminalized marijuana.
- 3 states have decriminalized marijuana but do not allow for medicinal marijuana to be sold.
This all makes total sense, right? Nope. It actually makes no sense at all. So, where do we go from here?
Well in November 2019, the House Judiciary Committee voted 24-10 in approval of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE), which would decriminalize cannabis and remove the drug from the list of federally controlled substances. MORE would provide reinvestment in individuals impacted by the War on Drugs by expunging certain cannabis offenses. Additionally, the bill would impose a 5% tax on all manufactured and imported cannabis products. Unfortunately, there are many hurdles to overcome before the bill can potentially become law. For starters, the Judiciary Committee is the only committee having reviewed the bill; it must pass through all seven other House committees before advancing to the Senate. If the Senate votes in favor of the bill it would, in turn, be given to the President for the final decision prior to becoming a law. In short, with such discernibly split political views on the topic of cannabis, it is unlikely the bill will be passed without revisions in the near future.
In 2019 Pew Research Center collected data on various demographics regarding their views on legalizing marijuana. This is how they stacked up:
- Fewer than one-in-ten (8%) of U.S. adults prefer to keep marijuana illegal under all circumstances.
- Approximately eight-in-ten (78%) of Democrats believe marijuana should be legal
- Comparatively fewer (55%) of Republicans are in favor of legalization.
- Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers are largely in favor of legalization while individuals born in the Silent Generation (1928-1945) are opposed.
In regards to the 5% tax the law would impose here’s a look at legalizing marijuana in terms of money:
According to ArcView Market Research and BDS Analytics, in 2019 recreational and medical marijuana sales made $12.2 billion and are projected to reach $31.1 billion by 2024. Just to reiterate, $12.2 BILLION, with only 11 legalized states! Furthermore, cannabis analytics company, New Frontier, suggests that federally legalizing marijuana could potentially generate $105.6 billion in federal tax revenue by 2025.
Let’s face it, regardless of state laws everyone smokes weed anyways. A federally uniform law legalizing recreational marijuana would create an overall safer regulated market. The economy would thrive raking in billions of dollars in tax revenues, and numerous incarcerations due to possession of marijuana would be expelled in turn liberating millions of tax-payer dollars used to keep them in prison. With all the curveballs 2020 has thrown at us I think it's safe to say that legalizing marijuana wouldn’t be the craziest thing to happen this year. Honestly, we all deserve some good news for a change; so, let's move forward and give the people what they want, and what they want is access to more ways to relax and decompress safely in the comfort of their own homes.