If there is one aspect of the marijuana legalization debate that doesn’t get as much talk time as it should, it is the idea that adults should have the freedom to use the herb without the risk of John Law trying to put them in a cage. Instead, the modern language of the pot reform spiel is more about how weed should be legal because it might be useful in the treatment of a variety of health conditions. There is also a lot of discussion, these days, about how the new world pot laws must come complete with reparations to make up for decades of racial bias concerning marijuana-related arrests. And then, of course, there is the money — the sales pitch about how legal weed brings about economic growth for struggling communities. But very rarely in the “why legalize marijuana” argument do we hear the average cannabis advocate stand up and proclaim the need to take this action because, “Look, I’m a fully grown human who pays his or her taxes, and if I want to smoke some of that loud from time to time, I should have the right to do so without getting harassed.”
But I suppose after decades spent battling it out with the dark forces of the governmental grind, it has been easy for the cannabis advocacy team to reach for every possible argument known to man to push its agenda just a little further. And this “whatever it takes” approach is apparently working to some degree. There are now 11 states in the Land of the Free (Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington) that have legalized the leaf in a manner that gives adults the freedom to purchase pot products in a way that they have done for decades when it comes to alcoholic beverages. Marijuana is also legal in the District of Columbia ( the spot where that dastardly bastard Uncle Sam calls home) but there is not yet a retail market. There is hope, though, that this could change in the near future.
The most crucial development in the push for marijuana legalization in the United States has been the concept of it happening through the state legislature. Just last month, Illinois became the first state in the nation to establish a taxed and regulated pot market through the legislative process. This might not sound like a big deal — I mean, our laws are supposed to be made this way, right? But states have proven time and again, especially over the past year or so, that this is not an easy task. In fact, New York and New Jersey are two prime examples of jurisdictions that were hellbent on legalizing marijuana, only to end up completely screwing the pooch at the last minute.
The lawmakers in this part of the country are more concerned about the allocation of tax revenue and establishing reparations for minority communities than they are about giving ALL adult residents the freedom to possess and use marijuana. But Illinois figured out how to come to terms on all of these issues. Not only is the state giving adults access to legal weed, but it is also forgiving criminal records for past pot offenses, and it has even set aside a substantial chunk of change to invest in those communities most devastated by drug war tactics. This is important because these combined policies have now become a model for all of those confused states that can’t seem to decide how to legalize the leaf. It is even possible that the Illinois pot law could become the template for legalizing at the national level. That’s something that lawmakers there hoped to do.
It is difficult to predict which states will be the next to legalize marijuana. As we’ve seen, more often than not, some of the sure things can easily end up finishing last. Yet, with that said, it is conceivable that New York and New Jersey will rise above their incompetence, stop being dorks and legalize for recreational use in 2020. Lawmakers in New York will undoubtedly head back to the drawing board in the next session, while New Jersey plans to put the question of legalization up to the voters in next year’s election. Will either have a better outcome? That is difficult to say.
New Mexico might beat them to it.
There is also an unsung push in Florida to legalize for recreational use. A couple of advocacy groups (Regulate Florida and Floridians for Freedom) believe they can get this done in 2020 through the ballot measure process. This in spite of the state’s recent move to outlaw the voice of the voters on issues such as these. Arizona, too, is hoping to get a recreational marijuana initiative on the ballot next year. There has also been some action to fully legalize in Ohio, but advocates there seem to have given up on that possibility. At least there are no definitive plans to go for it within the next 12 months.
But what about federal legalization? Well, we’re glad you asked. There is a near perfect storm that could transpire in the next year that could set the country up for the BIG win. It is one that involves the dethroning of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Democrats gaining control of the Senate (they have the upper hand in the House now) and eliminating the lunacy that is President Trump. All of this is possible in the 2020 election. There are several Senate seats up for grabs in the upcoming election, including McConnell’s, and most of the Democratic presidential candidates support the legalization of marijuana at the national level. If all goes a certain way, we could be inching toward a time when we finally have the freedom to use marijuana without conflicting laws to jam us up. There is even a possibility that Trump could band together with McConnell to take the glory of marijuana legalization out of the hands of Democrats. However unlikely this scenario might be, it is definitely one that some federal lawmakers focused on cannabis reform have been concerned about since last year’s election. But how it will all pan out, well, for that, my dear friends and enemies, we will just have to wait and see.
In the meantime, let’s use this Independence Day to think about how we’re not exactly free in this country, especially when it comes to some of the things we’re allowed to possess, ingest or do with our bodies. Consider how ridiculous it is that we, in this day and age, continue to be bound by the religion of old, saggy politicians that are scared sh*tless of giving society too much room to roam. Chew on that today while you are hanging out with friends and family, grilling meats, drinking booze and firing off explosives. Perhaps the first spark of the day should be one dedicated to the new freedoms to come. And if that spark just so happens to lead to you getting stoned, well, all the better.
TELL US, do you support the freedom for all adults to choose cannabis?