It’s important to remember that public policy is a lot more nuanced than simply legal or illegal. In broad strokes, many states have legalized medical marijuana, while continuing to prohibit recreational uses of the drug. Looking for a handy map and cheat sheet of state-by-state marijuana laws? Check out this nifty interactive map from the National Cannabis Industry Association.
Along with the laws themselves, it’s the enforcement of these laws that can have a huge impact on the actual social outcomes that go along with our drug policies. While many people have stories about run-ins with a cop who looked the other way, other stories involve gross overreactions and harsh penalties. Unless, you know, you think justice is served by prosecuting an elderly couple growing marijuana plants in their home to help with the aftermath of a traumatic brain injury. Not to mention the large and long-standing racial disparities that come with marijuana arrests and adjudication.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Governmental authorities have taken such an irrational approach and made such nonsensical arguments, dictated by special interests and cynical actors, that cannabis prohibition and drug enforcement policies have contributed to the general distrust that Americans have in their public institutions. Continuing to insist that marijuana is a Schedule 1 controlled substance that’s more dangerous than opiates, cocaine, and methamphetamine isn’t just wrong. It also destroys the credibility of the agency tasked with enforcing the country’s drug policy.
Of course, it’s not all bad news, especially with the ongoing momentum toward a more sensible drug policy. Every day, there are more stories and more news about the changing landscape of public policy toward cannabis. We’ve set aside this space as a kind of aggregate news blog. We’ll post links to the latest stories and provide a short summary and our own take when appropriate.
NASHVILLE, TN—Here’s that story about the elderly couple that ended up getting convicted of a felony due to desperation, ignorance, and incredibly bad luck. As well as a legitimate medical issue.
DETROIT, MI—Some marijuana policies are bad; other policies are simply unintelligible. The current status of marijuana laws in Michigan definitively fall into the latter category. And when the law itself is beyond comprehensive, it opens the doors to some toxic mix of uncertainty and corruption.
CHICAGO, IL—For people in some jurisdictions, it’s not strictly a matter of legality, so much as practicality. The choice for this Chicago resident is between living in constant pain and being entirely unemployable.
COLORADO—Not all meaningful policy has to involve huge systematic changes to a state’s cannabis industry. One of things that Colorado has discovered as one of the guinea pigs of cannabis policy is to institute commonsense regulations on what edibles can and can’t look like.
MASSACHUSETTS—Ever wonder what would happen if, instead of putting resistant government officials in charge of implementing marijuana policy, states asked the marijuana policy advocates to help design the system? Well, it’s happening. Check out what’s going on in Massachusetts.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The strange jurisdiction and laws that govern the District of Columbia have been known to create strange legal realities in other areas. And marijuana is no exception. Federal lawmakers have been looking for ways to undermine the voters’ decision to legalize cannabis in the District. The current result is a no-man’s land in which you can’t sell marijuana directly but you can’t “gift” it with the purchase of another item. We’ve never seen such a popular $45 T-shirt.
SAN FRANCISCO—In numerous communities and jurisdictions around the country, cannabis is now a widely accepted part of the culture, including both the medical and entertainment industries. But as cannabis grows increasingly mainstream, there’s a tendency to forget the pioneers who came before us. Dennis Peron, a marijuana activist who championed the medical benefits of cannabis for AIDS patients, died from lung cancer on Jan. 27, 2018 at the age of 72. He was also a big part of the movement to pass Prop 215 that legalized medical use in the state in 1996.
CANADA—On June 19th, 2018, Canada voted to legalize recreational marijuana use. They are the second country to do so in the world. The bill, which was first approved by the House of Commons, must be approved by the governor-general for a final approval. This legislation is expected to create a multibillion dollar industry and pave the way for future legalization processes around the world.