Next Month, Four States May Choose to Join the Recreational Weed Bandwagon

Recreational marijuana may soon become legal in four more states.
Recreational marijuana may soon become legal in four more states.

The means to legalization of our sacred herb vary from constitutional amendments to the initiative and referendum ballot process in many (mostly Western) jurisdictions to legislative statutes, but whatever the method, all paths yield the same kind result. The best news is that recreational marijuana is on this November's ballot in the following states: California (Prop 64), Arizona (Prop 205), Maine (Question 1), and Nevada (Question 2).

Texas residents should note how the legalization path operates. First, the undeniable, obvious benefits of cannabis on pain relief and appetite issues force even conservative abstinence advocates to admit marijuana's medical efficacy. Then from tonic to chronic is simply a step forward once the normative barrier is breached. And rather than rely on often cumbersome statutory measures, where legislators can be easily bought by the traditional pharmaceutical giants (much as the DuPont Corporation lobbied for prohibition in 1937), placing the decision in the hands of voters almost always ensures a positive outcome.

De Jure legalization exists in three states: Colorado, Washington and Oregon, plus Alaska, which takes an alternative 'grow it yourself' hybrid approach. Oddly, the District of Columbia also passed a prohibition removal ordinance, though the unusual nature of civic government there (not a state, not just a city) has caused some interpretive issues. (So, yes, spliff worshippers, your "George Washington grew hemp" trope from The Emperor Wears No Clothes has been redeemed!)

As of this writing, only Colorado allows open public consumption in regulated places (See my previous post here). In November, Denver residents will vote on smoking in designated areas in bars, similar to tobacco (outdoors, in patios, in designated areas, etc.). The Colorado Springs city council is also holding hearings on banning its cannabis clubs so the situation is in flux. D.C. has debated such a regulation and is rumored to have a few "speakeasy" style establishments while Anchorage recently granted its first license for such a club.

Medical marijuana exists in some form in 20 states. In some, like California, the 'prescription' is a fig leaf for de facto legalization (an ex-girlfriend told me she could call a weed delivery service there, easy as ordering a pizza). On the other extreme is Texas, where CBD cannabinoids effective in fighting epileptic and other seizures have won extremely limited approval but a 'cop and shop' medical store – much less curbside chronic service – is a long ways off. All require a doctor's prescription, but again, availability varies widely from 'Sign Here if you have a headache' locales to more traditional states that limit use to a delineated list of ailments – glaucoma, gastrointestinal issues and immune disorders being the most common. In still other states, prominent political figures like Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf have called on their legislatures to enact decriminalization if not outright legalization.

If only more would follow the lead of former New Mexico governor and current Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, who calls for a rational legalization policy at the federal level, where the absurd classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug (no medical uses with high potential for abuse) makes a mockery of the entire statutory framework. The good news is that in our system states serve as the laboratory for democracy so the move toward high-content freedom flowers.

This list of ballot initiatives is hardly comprehensive and developments grow weekly. Remember to reach out to your friends in the states where the people have the power to institute change and encourage them to vote 'Jah!' this November. The legalization landscape is sprouting like a hydroponic plant colony so turn on your mind, relax and float downstream. To quote the great Peter Tosh, "Legalize it. Don't criticize it."


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