Article by Angela Stelmakowich, Growth Op
Voters in four states that had recreational weed questions on the ballot during yesterday’s U.S. election have given their legislatures the green light to move forward with reforms, including all-out legalization.
Citizens of Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota have voiced their support for measures to legalize pot for those 21 and older, reports Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which has played a key role in the majority of state-level cannabis victories over the past two decades.
South Dakota, for its part, bundled up all things cannabis at one fell swoop, with a “yes” vote setting the stage for both recreational and medicinal marijuana in the state. It “became the first state in American history to enact both policies on the same day,” according to MPP.
Even Mississippi, whose governor tweeted this past weekend that he was a definite “no” to ballot questions addressing medicinal cannabis, is moving forward. Recreational weed, though, continues to be a no-go and will need to find favour with a future ballot before Mississippi contemplates going down that road.
The ballot votes could result in concrete changes that add to the current tally of 11 states that have legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older, and the 34 states that now have medical marijuana programs, MPP reports.
All proposals around adult-use cannabis still need to be given the green light by state legislatures. At their hearts, Proposition 207 in Arizona means adults 21 and older will legally be able to purchase up to an ounce (28 grams) of cannabis at a time and grow six plants at home; Montana initiatives could mean making possession of as much as an ounce of weed and eight grams of cannabis concentrates legal for those at least 21 years old; the New Jersey amendment means recreational cannabis is legalized with regard to use, possession and cultivation for adults 21 and older; and changes in South Dakota would legalize recreational use of marijuana, allowing residents 21 and up to possess or distribute up to one ounce (28 grams) of cannabis.
“This historic set of victories will place even greater pressure on Congress to address the glaring and untenable conflicts between state and federal laws when it comes to cannabis legalization,” comments MPP executive director Steve Hawkins.
MPP reports that should all the changes be implemented, a third of the U.S. population will live in a jurisdiction with legal adult-use cannabis. Additionally, 70 per cent of states would now have a framework for medicinal cannabis use.
A survey released by Data for Progress this summer found that 58 per cent of likely voters are in favour of having the U.S. government legalize the use and sale of cannabis. Poll results also show that 63 per cent of likely voters believe some tax funds from selling marijuana should go to community reinvestment funds to support the communities most harmed by punitive drug policy, and 55 per cent note said police should stop arresting people for selling small quantities of weed.
The apparent warming to cannabis among U.S. voters appears at odds with federal rules that still treat cannabis the same as heroin, and that deem the plant as having no currently accepted medical use.
“The federal government is out of step with a clear national trend toward legalization,” Hawkins says. “While cannabis legalization is not the cure-all to end the war on drugs, it is a necessary step and would provide an opportunity for many long-oppressed communities to finally have a chance to heal,” he adds.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) welcomed advances made on the cannabis front. “Marijuana legalization is not exclusively a ‘blue’ state issue, but an issue that is supported by a majority of all Americans — regardless of party politics,” notes Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML.
Bloomberg reports that with the thumbs-up from voters, New Jersey becomes the fourth most-populous state to allow recreational cannabis use and sales. It could pass related legislation as early as the end of this month.