During the last decade, we have seen an unprecedented positive shift in the public’s perspective on cannabis. What used to be seen as a dangerous drug is now viewed as a relatively harmless plant with many potential medical benefits. In fact, in 2019, two-thirds of Americans supported marijuana legalization.
Perhaps more important than this newfangled acceptance by mainstream culture is the recent slew of legislation in the United States that’s been instrumental in beginning to bring an end to cannabis prohibition. We still have a long way to go for federal marijuana legalization, but it’s still refreshing to look back towards what advocacy groups have already accomplished. In states that legalized weed, they have found an influx in tax revenue that has gone towards public education according to Jill Mullen. So in the spirit of success, here’s a look at some of the most important recent legalization updates that are worth celebrating.
New York Legalized Recreational Marijuana
The most recent major update in marijuana laws comes to us from the Big Apple. After three years of failed negotiations, state lawmakers and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office finally reached an agreement regarding marijuana legalization at the end of last month.
The MRTA (marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act) does more than just simply legalize marijuana and could very well be used as a blueprint for other states looking to enact progressive marijuana reform. Some provisions include:
- Protections for cannabis workers against discrimination in housing, parental rights, and education
- Allowances for cannabis delivery services Automatic expungement of prior marijuana convictions
- Reinvestment of marijuana tax revenue into the minority communities most impacted by prohibition
- Aiming for 50% of cannabis business licenses to be issued to social equity applicants
- Allowances for home cultivation
- Marijuana odor is no longer sufficient cause for law enforcement to conduct a search
Mass Legalization During The 2020 Election
Despite complications from the pandemic, the 2020 election had record-breaking voter turnout. Americans clearly wanted to have their voices heard on a number of issues, and in several states, one of those issues was marijuana legalization. A total of five states had marijuana reform legislation on the ballot measures, and in all five states, voters decisively chose to reject the war on drugs.
Four states, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota, all voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use completely. For the most part, once the infrastructure is established, weed legalization in these states will function similarly to how it does in states like Colorado or Washington (where state-licensed dispensaries are free to sell approved cannabis products and consumers can no longer be criminally prosecuted for possessing or using marijiuana.) This is a particularly big deal for South Dakota, where past marijuana reform efforts have been largely unsuccessful. Unlike the other three states who voted for recreational marijuana use, the state of Mt. Rushmore didn’t even have a medical marijuana program prior to the election.
The constituents of the historically bright-red state of Mississippi also signaled their receptiveness to cannabis by legalizing medical marijuana during the election. With Republican strongholds in the deep south getting on board with marijuana reform, it’s evident that the country is that much closer to the federal legalization of weed.
The 2018 Farm Bill
One of the most impactful pieces of legislation for the CBD and hemp industries was the most recent iteration of the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill was originally a new-deal-era bill designed to increase protections for the American agricultural sector. The original bill came with a caveat: it would need to be updated every five years, or the provisions it outlined would become null and void. These quinquennial updates allow lawmakers to include new policies that could help the country’s farming community.
In 2018 federal lawmakers decided to legalize hemp at a federal level through the Farm Bill update. Offering struggling farmers an alternative cash crop while removing some of the stigma around cannabis was a win-win for both parties. Ultimately, it’s still up to the states to set their own laws regarding the cultivation and sale of hemp. However, most are following the lead of the federal government. Most importantly, the hemp provision in the Farm Bill prevents state law enforcement from targeting shipments of hemp or CBD that pass through state borders.