Perhaps not any time since the 1960s and 70s has there be more of a call to legalize marijuana. Celebrities, politicians, and even Presidents all admit to having either tried it in the past or to currently using it for recreational purposes. Medical marijuana is available in more states than ever, and fewer states are bothering to prosecute those found to possess the substance. So how did we get to this point?
Depending on your beliefs, cannabis is illegal because of it’s status as a psychoactive drug or because hemp presented a real threat to the paper and timber industries and they lobbied to get the substance made illegal to protect their financial interests. Either way, cannabis use, even if only once, in the United States has grown in the last 20 years to something that wasn’t spoken of to something that is accepted.
Recent studies show that as many as 42% of Americans have tried marijuana at least once, and there’s increasing demand for products made from hemp, with a large market for shoes made from the durable fibers of the cannabis plant finding increasing demand. With the large number of Americans that have tried the substance and the demand for products using the non-drug part of the plants, it’s no surprise that the calls to legalize the substance have increased in recent years.
Medical marijuana is legal in numerous states, most notably California, but is still illegal to the federal government, setting up something of a contradiction where dispensaries and medical patients can be legally using the substance according to California state law, but breaking federal law. This has caused the DEA to shut down dispensaries in numerous states, even though they were sanctioned by the state. The current administration has state they will curtail this practice.
With studies showing that cannabis is no less harmful than nicotine and alcohol, and some studies showing it to be less harmful, the calls for it to be decriminalized have grown in recent years. Several attempts have been made to have the federal government pass laws that would allow for the sale and purchase of marijuana much in the same way as alcohol and cigarettes – with age restrictions and only from certain retailers. This idea has been fought by those that believe cannabis is incredibly harmful, presenting long-term risks to the health of those that use it beyond what you would find with alcohol or tobacco.
So is marijuana really that bad? Should it be legalized and taxed like a number of other substances that are also technically drugs and legal? It’s not the role of this writer to determine the legality of marijuana, and as I’m not a scientist or doctor, I won’t comment on the health issues. I will state that change is coming, and that something will be done that will have an impact on the cannabis debate, be it for the better or not.