US Cannabis Progress Report
by Dan Larkin
It’s time for a US cannabis progress report. Why? Because we’re halfway through 2019 and a lot has happened already this year. There’s been a lot of progress towards ending the prohibition on cannabis at the states’ level. Yet, there have been some setbacks and disappointments too.
On balance, the progress can’t be denied. The stigma surrounding cannabis use is falling away for older Americans. Plus, younger Americans are fully embracing cannabis and wondering what the big deal is for the older generations.
Cannabis progress by the numbers
It’s worth noting that a recent Axios/SurveyMonkey poll showed that 63% of Americans favor legalizing cannabis. If you look at some of the specific age groups you’ll see that 73% of the 18-24 age group are for legal cannabis. A full 58% of Americans 55-64 are right there with them. Here’s a look at the Axios/SurveyMonkey poll results.
Cannabis progress on the Federal level
So, yeah, there’s no denying that full adult use legalization looks like it’s making great progress, but the Federal government hasn’t ended it’s failed “war on drugs”. At least, not yet.
The recent good news on the Federal level came recently when the US House of Representatives passed an amendment to the 2020 Appropriations bill that would effectively prevent the US Justice Department from interfering with states’ rights to legalize cannabis. If it passes the Senate and becomes law, it would be historic. Now that’s some definite US cannabis progress.
For the first time, both adult use and medical use of cannabis in states where it’s legal would be protected from prosecution by the federal government. That’s already the case for medical cannabis, but adding the adult use protection is definitely progress for US cannabis.
Cannabis progress at the state level
We’ll keep an eye on US cannabis progress on a national level. But, in the meantime, let’s note some of the progress at the state level. Here are some of the developments we’ve seen so far (in no particular order):
Illinois is about to become the 11th state to legalize adult use of cannabis for citizens age 21 and up. They are also the first state to pass the law through a statehouse vote instead of by a voter initiative.
Illinois also demonstrated big cannabis law progress because of the social equity components of their bill. One key aspect is the opportunity for expungement of arrest records for low-level cannabis arrests.
“Illinois is going to have the most equity-centric law in the nation. For the many individuals and families whose lives have been changed — indeed hurt — because the nation’s war on drugs discriminated against people of color, this day belongs to you.”Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker
New Mexico has also made great progress regarding cannabis. They too enacted legislation this spring expediting the expungement process for those seeking to vacate their criminal records.
Their governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, also signed legislation that reduced first-time cannabis possession penalties from being punishable by up to 15 days in jail, to a simple $50 fine. That’s cannabis progress.
We should note that North Dakota, Colorado, and Hawaii (when signed into law) have also reduced their penalties.
Nevada passed a new law that prohibits certain employers from refusing to hire people just because they tested positive for cannabis on a pre-employment drug screen.
They also were among the states making cannabis progress by passing laws to speed up the expungement process for anyone looking to vacate their cannabis arrest records. The other states that have enacted similar measures include Oregon, Utah, and Washington.
“This is a small step, but one that moves us in the direction of correcting injustices that disproportionately affected communities of color. A successful pardon of a marijuana possession conviction can assist with barriers to housing, employment, and education.”Washington Governor Jay Inslee
In New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed new laws that allow for as many as 108 more cannabis growers & manufacturers to serve their 50,000 registered medical patients.
Some other states greatly expanded their medical programs too. They include Colorado, Connecticut, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, and West Virginia. All of these states have expanded the pool of eligible medical cannabis patients this year.
It seems like Colorado has already made a ton of progress on cannabis in comparison to many other states. But they aren’t done yet. They’ve now legalized some home delivery of retail cannabis.
This year they’ve also passed a law to allow for on-site consumption at licensed cannabis facilities. They’ve also legalized cannabis social use facilities or “cannabis lounges”. Massachusetts and Alaska have passed similar measures.
Georgia jumped on the cannabis progress bandwagon this year when they passed legislation to allow some forms of low THC cannabis. (Think CBD) Texas followed suit with a similar law making it legal to sell CBD as long as it contained no more than .30% of THC.
As you can see from just these few examples, the US Cannabis Progress Report for the first half of 2019 looks like a good one. Yes, there were a few setbacks. New York’s last-ditch effort to legalize adult use and failing is probably the most glaring. But overall, the progress is palpable and it seems to have no end in sight.
As more legislators become educated about cannabis and the stigma created by the failed (and expensive) “war on drugs” fades away, full adult legal cannabis looks to be a lock in the near term. In the meantime, it’s up to all of us to continue to educate our lawmakers, families, friends, and neighbors about cannabis. As we move through the second half of this year, let’s see what more cannabis progress we can make together.
What are some of the cannabis progress signs you’ve noticed in your state or across the country? We’d love to have you share your Cannabis In Real Life opinion with us. Email your story or thoughts to us at info@CannabisIRL.com