2016 Could Prove to be the Biggest Year yet in Cannabis Law Reform
It seems the movement for cannabis law reform has finally worn down the edges of it’s square wheels on the long road uphill and is now on a fast track down the other side toward legalization. A decade ago the topic of marijuana probably came up mostly in households where parents were warning their teens not to do drugs, but in the last 5 or 6 years a lot has changed. The topic is everywhere, being discussed openly among friends and colleagues at dinner parties, politicians and government officials are taking stances, businessmen are investing and public opinion is morphing.
Following a Gallup poll in 2011, revealing public support to be at a then record high of 50% for legalizing marijuana, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington D.C. have all done so for recreational use.
The medical marijuana industry has been committed to educating people of the immense benefits Cannabis can have for the ill. This education has greatly contributed to a significant shift in public opinion regarding Marijuana. As the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes becomes more socially acceptable, the perception and growing support for the drug in general grows which will lead to cannabis law reform.
You can no longer turn a blind eye even if you try to, thanks to an effort put forth by the Drug Policy Alliance to change the stereotype of who marijuana users are, you will start seeing it everywhere too. They’ve created a stock image movement trying to use “more realistic” situations where “everyday” people are seen using marijuana. They believe these “more humanizing images of people” will help change perceptions.
On the subject of marijuana prohibition repeal, there’s a lot of moving and shaking going on. With a Presidential election upcoming, other than 2012 when Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize the substance for adults over 21, 2016 is shaping up to be a very significant year.
Five states including Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada will be, or are extremely likely to be voting on legalization on November 8th.
Voted the state most likely to legalize: Nevada.
Nevada wins the race by being the first state to qualify for the 2016 ballot with an astounding 60,000 more signatures than needed. Public officials such as Congresswoman Dina Titus are behind the Cannabis industry due to the economic possibilities and with tax revenues to be directed to the schools Nevadans are likely to say “yes”.
California is the second most likely to legalize this fall. Governor Jerry Brown has signed three pieces of legislation in an attempt to finally bring some law and order to what has been renegade growth due to the complete absence of statewide regulation. Then there’s the most promising measure for recreational use, the Adult Use Of Marijuana Act, which is endorsed by Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and said to be backed by members of the MPP, as well as billionaire Sean Parker and many cannabis advocacy groups.
Maine is the next state that will likely be among the movers and shakers- with it’s medical marijuana program being one of the strongest in the country and obvious support shown by individual cities, such as Portland and Lewiston, trying to pass their own laws to legalize possession and use by adults and the outspoken backing of state Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland), who has long supported legalization. The Marijuana Legalization Act submitted over 100,000 signatures on Feb 1st, almost 40,000 more than they needed to secure their spot on the 2016 ballot.
Providing some serious ammunition to Massachusetts’ fight against prohibition, former Assistant Attorney General, Will Luzier, has decided to spearhead the campaign for legalization saying that “Marijuana prohibition has been just as big of a failure as alcohol prohibition, and Massachusetts deserves better.” The Massachusetts Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which includes the same forward thinkers that helped legalize recreational use in both Alaska and Colorado, has been working tirelessly to draft a comprehensive initiative for the 2016 ballot.
Having a thriving medical cannabis industry already, Arizona is another state that could be a prime target for legalization even though support/opposition was-divided almost down the middle in a poll by Arizona State University recently. A spokesman for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol indicated they already have more than the 150,000 signatures needed to be added to the ballot and have raised more than $1.08 million to support the cause while opposition has only raised $100,000 thus far.
Florida is ripe for legalizing medical marijuana after a measure was lost in 2014, coming in only 2 1/2% short of the votes needed. United for Care, as the campaign is called, announced on Jan 27th that they had all the votes they need to get onto the ballot this year and if the initiative passes Florida could become the second largest market for medical marijuana in the country behind California.
The problem Ohio had the last time they tried to pass marijuana reform was derived from trying to pass both medical and recreational marijuana with one single measure, while support for medical marijuana has consistently drawn high numbers in the polls, recreational uses have not seen as much love. However, this year has brought all of the advocates together and an entire reworking of the initiative. Despite the fact that they have less than a third of the votes needed so far, 84 percent of Ohioans are in support of legalizing marijuana for medical use per a poll done by Quinnipiac University last year. All of the signs are pointing to this being the year for Ohioans.
The citizens of Pennsylvania are growing tired of waiting cannabis law reform in their state. If some sort of medical marijuana policy isn’t passed this year there may just be a riot. The House has been dragging their feet for eight months on Senate Bill 3, which was approved by the Senate last May, and it’s time for them to get off the pot. Public support is consistently high as evidenced by numbers ranging from 56% to as high as 86% in every poll that has been conducted over the past several years. Patients and their families are rallying at the State Capitol, even religious leaders are signing petitions showing their support for medical marijuana legislation, the people are speaking and the House is going to have to answer.
Historically there has always been a greater turnout of voters in an election year and with marijuana on the ballots across the country it’s likely there will be a greater number of liberal and progressive thinking youth among them. Three of the four states that makeup the west coast already allow recreational marijuana and California, with the eighth largest economy in the world, is likely to join them finishing off the entire west coast. Ten states making up half of the east coast have medical programs already in place, and many of those are inching towards full legalization as well.
Florida and Pennsylvania are looking to join in the game this year with measures for medical marijuana. Moving, shaking, and paving the way for the rest of the country to follow suit. Yes, 2016 does seem to be shaping up to be a year for the history books.