The complexity of cannabis
The cannabis plant is the mother to both hemp and marijuana. The plane especially has a long and complicated history with the United States of America (US).
The cannabis plant played a vital role in the New World as American colonies were established by European settlers. Cannabis was deemed so essential that farmers were required by law to grow hemp on their lands, in line with a legislation passed in 1619 by the Virginia Assembly.
Hemp produced on farms was used to produce items of clothing, ropes, and many other societal staples. In states such as Maryland and Virginia, hemp was utilised as legal tender (money).
As hemp production gradually hit a stall by the end of the American Civil War – which lasted from 1861 to 1865 – hemp’s sister crop, marijuana, was gaining popularity across the country. Marijuana had become a popular ingredient in all manner of medicines, extracts, and tinctures.
Cannabis was subjected to a wide spectrum of views from the 19th and the early through mid-20thcentury, most of which were negative. Marijuana, whether for recreational or medical use, was viewed with heavy contempt. The drug had gone from a societal staple to an upsetting social vice capable of landing one many years behind bars.
Cannabis plants. Source
In 1996 however, the tide took a massive turn with the state of California where marijuana was legalised for medical purposes. This legal marijuana aided in the treatments of people suffering from sicknesses such as Cancer, AIDS and other serious ailments. In that same year, the state of Arizona followed suit and the revolution slowly begun.
The journey to legalisation
The state of California became the first state to legalise marijuana for medicinal use in 1996. The states of Colorado and Washington, however, were the first states to legalise marijuana for recreational use. In 2012, Colorado legalised recreational cannabis under the Colorado Amendment 64, and so did Washington under the Washington Initiative 502.
Since these legalisation maneuvers, the cannabis crop has become big business for both states. In fact, rumour has it there are more marijuana dispensaries in Colorado than Starbucks and McDonald’s combined.
Marijuana is illegal in the United States for recreational consumption under federal law. It is regarded as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This means that the federal government regards cannabis as a highly addictive substance with no medical value.
Although illegal on a federal level, marijuana is legal for medical use in 33 states, complicating matters further. Marijuana is also legal for recreational use in 10 of those 33 states and Washington, DC.
Here’s a more specific list of the recreational cannabis states:
- Washington, DC
With the legalisation trend sweeping the nation, many of the states were cannabis remains illegal debating their already set laws where marijuana is concerned. The states of New York, New Jersey, and Illinois are already heading towards legalisation.
Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York State, has expressed that legalisation of recreational marijuana is one of his top legislative priorities for the year 2019. According to a Quinnipiac poll conducted in 2018, 63% of New York state voters support legalisation.
J.B Pritzker, the governor of the state of Illinois, is also working to legalise marijuana for recreational use in his state. According to Pritzker, “By legalizing and regulating adult-use cannabis in this legislative session, we will create jobs and bring in $170 million in licensing and other fees in fiscal year 2020.” Pritzker notes that he does not solely view this legalisation from a financial standpoint. He states that legalisation could be beneficial for criminal and social justice platforms.
Support for the legalisation of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes has skyrocketed in the last few years. A recent poll by Pew Research Centre shows that six-in-ten people – 62% of the American Population – support the legalisation of marijuana.
The vast majority of Americans now support cannabis legalisation, and the number is even higher among millennials. Source: CannabisExpress
What could this mean for New Zealand?
Despite the recreational use laws still in place, New Zealanders are one of the largest consumers of weed in the globe. In fact, the Oceania region in general is responsible for 15 percent of the world’s cannabis consumption.
A recent survey revealed that over 60% of New Zealanders would vote Yes to recreational cannabis legalisation in the 2020 referendum. With the majority of the population in support, the country may be on the path to legalisation quite soon.
The legalisation of cannabis for recreational and medicinal purposes is a global phenomenon. With cannabis becoming widely accepted both socially and culturally, many countries worldwide could be on the path to fully legalising the plant for adults.