It’s official. More than 99 million Americans now live in one of fifteen states in which the schedule I drug “marijuana” is recreational. This data turns those numbers into one out of every three citizens living where persons twenty-one and up can consume the drug.
History of Medical and Recreational Marijuana in the US
It does not come as a surprise that America has a long and complicated history with drugs. From allowing citizens to buy heroin in stores back in the day to destroying peoples lives for having less than a gram of marijuana on them today, America’s complicated history of the drug enforcement policy has caused mass disenfranchisement.
California can be credited as the first state to legalize medical marijuana 25 years ago in 1996, but legalization has come a long way since then. Scoring wins in the 2020 elections, South Dakota legalized marijuara both recreationally and medically, and other conservative states like Mississippi have legalized medical marijuana, demonstrating the legacy of the War on Drugs is steadily fading. With people becoming increasingly aware of the benefits that this plant can have on health, wellbeing, and overall happiness, voter’s attitudes are changing from what they once were.
Unfortunately for many states, 2020 was supposed to be a big year legalization campaigns, but thanks to the pandemic, efforts were derailed, and many recreational marijuana movements in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and North Dakota never saw the light of day. 2021 is geared to become a promising year for cannabis reform though. Biden becoming president and electing Jamie Harrison of the DNC will hopefully only further prove this theory.
Steve Hawkins, who is the executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, had this to say about the wins. “Regardless of who controls the White House, the House and the Senate, we should demand landmark federal marijuana reform in 2021.” And those of us who promote marijuana activism and other cannabis enthusiasts can only nod our heads in agreement with such statements.
The Impact Cannabis Activism Has Made on America
With conservative states continuing to legalize at the ballot box, we can assume Congress is feeling the heat of America’s passionate desire for cannabis reform. The drug has continued to remain federally illegal, despite 36 states having some form of medical marijuana program within them. Hopefully, with Arizona and New Jersey joining the ranks of recreational marijuana markets, with a collective 16.9 million residents between them, the pressure on Congress to pass some new drug reform laws only increases.
One of the primary reforms at the heart of the cannabis movement is reversing the systems of racist law enforcement that result in a disproportionate number of minority persons in jail for cannabis possession.
With Democrats now regaining control of the Senate, a third of these officials are living in an area where marijuana is legal in some form. State lawmakers might now be urged to vote on exponential changes, which will hopefully include removing all federal penalties for possessing cannabis. Advocates of marijauna reform point out that regulating this drug, like alcohol, not only reduces black market drug trade, but also allows for safer products, and a collection of state tax revenue.
In Oregon, they’ve actually even gone a step further and are starting to allow the medical use of psilocybin, the primary ingredient in “magic mushrooms”. Texas has recently filed a bill to follow in Oregon’s footsteps by allowing research on this, within the state, to find alternate cures for PTSD, addiction, and depression.
The United States’ Response to Upsurge of Recreational Marijuana Campaigns
While many anti-legalization advocates tried to claim that they were frightened of marijuana becoming a big business like tobacco or alcohol, the pro-marijauana advocates fought back and fought back hard.
ACLU New Jersey Executive Director Amol Sinha, had this to say, “The ‘yes’ vote is only the first step toward justice. Lawmakers must create an inclusive, racially just, equitable cannabis industry, enable robust expungement of records, and invest revenue in the communities hit hardest by unjust drug law enforcement, especially Black and brown communities.”
We couldn’t agree with you more Amol. In the coming years, we will see what’s in store for these new approaches to remediate not only racial justice, but marijuana justice. In the meantime all we can do is spread information, and try to help each other however much we can.
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