Country-Wide Legalization: How Soon Before Marijuana is Legal Everywhere?


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legalize

Is legalization the way to go?
Image: Elvert Barnes / CC BY-SA

Well, Miley Cyrus and President Obama have one thing in common. They both think alcohol is worse than marijuana.

Ms. Wrecking Ball made her views clear in a recent interview with Rolling Stone. The POTUS, meanwhile, shared his thoughts with the New Yorker. So yes, marijuana legalization supporters seem to run the whole length of the spectrum.

The House of Representatives bill, Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013, actually had legislators from 13 states plus DC pledging their support and co-sponsorship. And yes, supporters include Washington and Colorado, 2 states where recreational weed is already legal.

The bill prohibits the federal government from interfering with a state’s marijuana laws. Sure, it won’t legalize marijuana in any of the states where it isn’t yet. But it does remove federal barriers to legalization. Legislators are then free to write marijuana laws. And this could range from decriminalization all the way to eventual legalization.

Weed-Friendly States

Who sponsored the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2012?

Well, Washington and Colorado obviously are no surprises. Colorado’s Jared Polis, it must be noted, also sponsored another bill just last spring to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition.

California has already legalized marijuana. The state also has some of the most progressive medicinal marijuana laws in the country. However, Californians are still subject to federal regulations and some rather strong punishments for non-medical marijuana users. And so, perhaps with the thought that California would be more open to legalization if the federal government is removed from the equation, Representatives Sam Farr, Barbara Lee, Janice Hahn and Dana Rohrabacher all supported the new bill.

Oregon may have voted nay to legalization back in November 2012. But it didn’t stop legalization supporters from trying again. 2014 may just be the year that the state finally says yes.

Vermont already voted to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. The governor signed the bill on June 6, 2013. Medical marijuana is already legal in the state. With decriminalization, it should only be a matter of time before full legalization takes effect.

In Alaska, medical marijuana is legal. So is less than 4 ounces of weed in a person’s home. Rep. Don Young is succumbing to the pressure from his constituents to continue with Alaska’s drug policy liberalization.

Yes we can

Yes, we can-nabis?
Image: Mardi Gras 2011 / CC BY

The marijuana legalization atmosphere in Arizona is difficult at best. Social conservatives have been trying to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries despite the fact that it has been legalized in 2012. Thus, Rep. Raul M. Grijalva’s co-sponsorship of the bill is going to be an uphill battle. The bill is poised to take away the feral threat and make the state more hospitable to those seeking medical relief.

The District of Columbia has some of the highest rates of marijuana use. It opened its first medical marijuana dispensaries just last year. With the support of Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton, the path to DC’s legalization of marijuana is looking its most favorable in years.

With Rep. Justin Amash and Dan Benishek co-sponsoring the bill, Michigan is slowly turning the tide in favor of legalization. Medical marijuana is already legal in the state. There’s already a bill seeking to decriminalize personal possession. And now prohibiting federal intervention can only mean that the path to legalization is gradually becoming clearer.

Virginia has had no real progress on marijuana laws. But Rep. James Moran’s co-sponsorship of the bill shows conservative states like Virginia may be open to marijuana policy reform, too.

If there’s something to be said about Illinois, it’s that the state has very severe penalties for marijuana and a lot of marijuana convictions. To say the environment was hostile to marijuana legalization is putting it mildly. This is why it came as a surprise to some that Illinois Rep. Janice Schakowsky co-sponsored the bill. It must be noted, though that there’s a pending state bill awaiting the governor’s approval. This could possibly legalize marijuana across the state.

Is Florida marijuana-friendly? Hell, no. But Rep. Alcee Hastings opted to co-sponsor the bill anyway to give the state autonomy in creating their own laws minus federal intervention.

Wisconsin is slowly starting to become more tolerant, with Rep. Mark Pocan paving the way. While every piece of marijuana legislation has so far been defeated, speaking out for state autonomy is a good sign towards better marijuana laws to come.

It’s been said that Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen is years ahead of his peers. He has been a strong voice against penal system injustices and drug criminalization. It’s no wonder that he co-sponsored the bill as he maintains an affinity for “state’s rights”. This while trying to sway his constituents from what he thinks is antiquated marijuana policies.

So, the following states all support removing federal intervention and allowing stets to create their own marijuana laws. This could possibly pave the way to marijuana legalization, sooner rather than later.

  • Washington
  • Colorado
  • California
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • District of Columbia
  • Michigan
  • Virginia
  • Illinois
  • Florida
  • Wisconsin
  • Tennessee

So what’s keeping the other 36 states from doing the same?

Too Soon

prohibition

Who’s stopping it?
Image: Modern Scribe Photography / CC BY-ND

There are already 20 states and DC where medical marijuana is legal. But if you think that means legalization is only a matter of time, think again.

Many states still don’t think that legalizing marijuana is good for anyone. Texas’ Governor Rick Perry, in fact, gave a very firm “no” when asked about pot legalization.

According to Perry, Texas is looking to adjust penalties for the criminal use of marijuana. And that has seen prison populations go down. “The idea that a kid has one marijuana cigarette and you send him to prison, where they can learn to really be a hardened criminal, is not thoughtful public policy.”

Perry also thinks that too many people are already jumping on the legalization bandwagon without fully checking repercussions. “I think the fact is it is very important for science to keep playing a most important role in this before we jump to some conclusion, before we run out and get in the front of a parade that is going somewhere because we think it is where the public opinion is,” he said.

Three other governors agree with him.

Like Perry, their own “pot parade” is all for decriminalization, rather than legalization.

But the fact is many other states are too conservative to even consider legalization right now. For the longest time, marijuana has been known as a dangerous and addicting drug.

Colorado and Washington may have started paving the way. But whether the fire catches on past the Midwest really remains to be seen.

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