The burgeoning cannabis industry experiences its fair share of ups and downs in its quest to become legal at the federal level, facing a gamut of challenges from regulatory measures and from the opposition of elected leadership. But from newly introduced bills to backlash to financial backers, there are plenty of headlines in the news to indicate that marijuana legalization is constantly moving in a forward direction.
10 Crucial Strides in Marijuana Legalization
1. Big Marijuana Legalization Plans in New Jersey
Phil Murphy, the Democratic governor of New Jersey who recently replaced former governor Chris Christie, announced in his inauguration speech his plans to legalize recreational marijuana within the first 100 days of his tenure.
2. New York Governor Reconsiders Legalization of Marijuana
Though New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had previously described marijuana as a gateway drug, citing “a lot of proof,” he seems to have backed off his initial, misinformed judgment of the effects of using cannabis. He recently requested that the state fund a study exploring the feasibility of legalizing recreational marijuana, including the costs, benefits, and risks of such a move.
3. A New Bill Aiming for Federal Cannabis Legalization
The House of Representatives introduced the companion bill that accompanies Senator Cory Booker’s 2017 Marijuana Justice Act bill. Both bills aim for federal legalization of marijuana and have mechanisms in place that intend to retroactively remedy the consequences that individuals and communities have suffered from prior marijuana use and possession.
4. Heated Backlash Against the Attorney General
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced measures that will make it easier for federal law enforcement to crack down on marijuana in states that have legalized the cannabis industry, but the backlash to this announcement has been bipartisan and strong. Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado went so far as to announce his intention to hold up any nominations for the Department of Justice until Sessions backs down from his crusade against marijuana and what the Colorado senator understands to be an infringement upon states’ rights.
5. MAPS and Colorado Helping Veterans
Despite a recent announcement from the Department of Veterans Affairs that they presently have no intention of studying medical marijuana for use among veterans suffering from PTSD, The Washington Post reports that there is a placebo-controlled, triple-blind, randomized crossover study sponsored by MAPS and funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is currently underway. The study is designed to examine the effects of medical marijuana upon veterans suffering from PTSD. Upon completion of the study, perhaps the results will help to convince the VA that medical marijuana studies are worth pursuing after all.
6. Recreational Marijuana Legal in California
Recreational marijuana is legal in California. With each state that legalizes recreational use of cannabis — especially a populous state like California — the marijuana industry gains more traction in its efforts to convince the public and their elected legislators that it should be legalized at the federal level.
7. Massachusetts Looking Forward to July for Marijuana
Massachusetts is yet another state that will allow the legal sale of recreational marijuana this year. The state is set to allow retail sales of marijuana for recreational use by July 1st.
8. Hopeful Concessions in Maine
Though Maine has yet to give recreational marijuana the green light, the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee recently voted to delay the allowance of pot social clubs. While that might sound like a loss, it makes it more likely that the legalization of recreational use will pass since support among legislators will be broader without the impending possibility of social clubs. There’s concern that social clubs, like bars, will increase the incidence of people driving home under the influence.
9. Influence from Abroad
A few months ago, medical marijuana became a legal farming sector in Israel, giving it access to government funding and support. As one of the global leaders in marijuana research, what happens in Israel can have far-reaching effects on legalization in other countries. Given that American researchers are increasingly working with teams based in Israel on medical marijuana research, the American public is inevitably set to reap the benefits of any pharmaceutical breakthroughs established in Israel.
10. Forging Ahead Despite Federal Intimidation
Pennsylvania recently opened up its first medical marijuana dispensary, which opens on the heels of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s move to allow federal forces more opportunity to systematically dismantle marijuana industries in states that have passed cannabis legalization laws. The opening of the dispensary in Pennsylvania signals to the federal government that the cannabis industry, while nascent, is unwavering in its momentum.
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