In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two states in America to legalize cannabis for recreational purposes by passing ballot measures on Election Day.
In the next decade, public opinion rapidly shifting in support of legalization despite its federal illegality, nineteen other states would follow Washington D.C., and Guam’s lead to legalize marijuana use.
Some types of the cannabis plant, including marijuana or weed, contain THC. When this psychoactive compound is eaten, it can cause a sense of euphoria and relaxation.
Nowadays, more and more democratic politicians are in favor of marijuana legalization, with some republicans following suit. If and how to legalize the drug is still being debated among state legislatures while multiple bills relating to marijuana have been brought up in congress – including those proposing decriminalization on a federal scale. On April 1, 2022, the House passed a bill that decriminalized marijuana. A few months afterward, as reported by Marijuana Moment, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act in an attempt to federally decriminalize weed; however, its future is impossible to predict.
On October 7, 2021, President Joe Biden stated that he will pardon anyone convicted of the federal crime of simple marijuana possession. This applies to approximately 6,500 people in America. However, a senior White House official noted that no one is currently incarcerated for this particular offense.
States Where Marijuana Is Legal
Some people argue that marijuana is dangerous and oppose its legalization, while others state that it is not as harmful as alcohol and has benefits such as reducing stress and pain.
Some proponents also see it as a lucrative opportunity for states and a step towards social justice. Marijuana laws have had an unfair impact on people from minority communities, fueling mass incarceration. States where the drug is now legal are addressing past consequences of its prohibition, often including plans to wipe clean low-level marijuana convictions.
States where legal recreational marijuana has been approved:
- Washington, D.C.
- New Jersey
- New York
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
While retail marijuana has been available in Vermont since October 2022, the District of Columbia does not have a regulated recreational market for marijuana despite it being legal to use there. In November 2021, Guam officials took a step closer to launching their own industry by contracting with Metrc, a provider of cannabis regulatory systems.
States have their own processes for licensing dispensaries. In all states where marijuana is legal, businesses that sell marijuana must have a license from the state to do so.
The sales of marijuana are monitored and taxed by the government at different rates. Some states have an excise tax, which taxes a selected good- in this case, cannabis- that is given to the seller from the consumer. This price is then typically passed on by being included in the product’s original cost.
The rules for how much marijuana an adult can possess, whether adults can grow their own plants and what the tax revenue from marijuana sales is spent on differ from state to state.
Is marijuana legal at the federal level?
According to the Controlled Substances Act, Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug at the federal level, meaning that the government views it to be without medical use and highly prone to abuse. However, President Biden’s proclamation on Oct. 7, 2021 included a request for both the secretary of health and human services and attorney general “to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law expeditiously.”
Since the federal government still considers marijuana illegal, states that have legalized either recreational or medical use are technically in conflict with federal law. This tension between state and federal rights has caused some friction, as each side tries to assert its authority.
Although marijuana is illegal under federal law, the government has adopted a lenient policy towards states where it has been legalized. In 2009, Obama administration advised federal prosecutors to overlook charges against those who distributed medical marijuana in keeping with state laws.
What is the Cole Memorandum?
The 2013 Justice Department memo on federal marijuana enforcement, called the Cole Memorandum, said that states’ legalization laws would not be challenged by the department at that time. The department also expected states to have effective enforcement mechanisms in place.
In 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo and told prosecutors that they should use prosecutorial principles and their own judgment to decide whether or not to pursue marijuana charges.
The Department of Justice has, more often than not, refused to go after individuals who are following state law. Additionally, it has also not attempted to overturn any state legalization laws in court. Some people have commented that even though Cole is no longer a part of the department, most marijuana-related prosecutions by the DOJ have gone after bigger fish; cases involving firearms or organized crime, for example.
What does decriminalization mean?
Decriminalization can be defined as either the reduction of penalties for a certain criminal act or the reclassification of a criminal offense into a civil offense.
The Marijuana Policy Project reports that as of November 2022, 31 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized low-level marijuana offenses. This typically removes the possibility of jail time at least for first time-offenses, though a fine or criminal record remains in some places. While some states have chosen to only issue a civil offense for carrying small amounts of weed, others have simply reduced the penalties.However, most states still consider multiple offenses or possession of large quantities as criminal Jin those cases you can still be imprisoned. Out of the total number of states that Have passed decriminalization measures, Some also legalized medical marijuana use. There are two individual Slates that have decriminalized marijuana without legalizing it entirely Policy Project).
Decriminalization of drugs is usually viewed as a better option when compared to full-scale legalization or the harsh penalties that have been disproportionately doled out to people of color.
Where does the public stand on the issue?
More and more Americans are in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana use. A CBS News/YouGov poll published in April 2022 discovered that two-thirds of people would want it to be federally legal as well as legalized in their own state. Another Pew Research Center survey yielded similar results.
According to a November 2021 Gallup poll, support for cannabis legalization among U.S. adults has increased significantly in recent years, rising from 12% in 1969 to 31% in 2000 and then above 50% after 2013.
In 2019, Gallup found that Democrats are more likely to support legalization, though a majority of Republicans now favor it as well. People under 30 are similarly more likely to back marijuana legalization – 81% of those respondents in 2019 – but an older group isn’t far behind; 62% of Americans aged 50 to 64 also supported legalization according to a previous version of the Gallup survey.