When you are in the trenches fighting for cannabis legalization, it is easy to become cynical and discouraged. We recognize that it is cruel to deprive patients a safe medicine that can benefit their lives, or even save them, when potentially fatal drugs like OxyContin are prescribed. It is so obvious to reformers that adults should be able to use cannabis when cigarettes and alcohol are illegal. To keep sane, it is imperative, in my opinion, to keep perspective regarding how far we’ve come.
Think back to late April 1996 (which doesn’t seem too long ago to me as I was just about to graduate high-I know, I’m old now) when there were no medical cannabis states and only 24% of Americans supported legalization according to Gallup. Fast forward to today: 9 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized cannabis, while 31 states and D.C., have medical laws on the books. And now, a whopping 66% of Americans support legalization in the latest Gallup poll, an all-time record. And Gallup sensibly expects more states to legalize as public support grows:
Like support for gay marriage – and in prior years, interracial marriage – support for marijuana legalization has generally only expanded, even if slowly, over the course of multiple decades — raising the question of where the ceiling in support might be. As the percentage of Americans who favor legalizing pot has continued to grow, so has the number of states that have taken up legislation to allow residents to use the substance recreationally. States that permit use of medical marijuana are even more prevalent in the U.S. than states allowing recreational pot are.
After this year’s elections, recreational pot use could be allowed in two more states, depending on what voters decide in North Dakota and Michigan. Both of these states border Canada, whose adult residents now have access to legal marijuana nationwide. Meanwhile, state lawmakers in New Jersey are moving closer to passing legislation to legalize pot, and neighboring New York might not be far behind after the state’s health department conducted a study that led to its recommendation that marijuana be legal.
But even as many states take action to legalize pot, to date, no Midwestern or Southern states permit legal recreational use — though medicinal marijuana is allowed in a few of these states. Now that public support is consistent across U.S. regions, legalization could spread to new areas in the future.
Our state-by-state strategy has been working effectively, as we’ve seen support rise steadily after California legalized medical use in 1996. We are now at a tipping point that we need federal change. Oregon and California need to be able to export cannabis and all licensed businesses need to be free from draconian tax policies that still treat regulated companies like they are Pablo Escobar or Al Capone. With 2/3 support across the nation, we must demand that the Trump administration and the next Congress take action in the next two years, or lose their jobs in 2020.
Learn the latest about current and future cannabis laws, and network with top investors and entrepreneurs from around the world at the next International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco on February 7-8, 2019. Get your early-bird tickets by January 18th to save!