Happy Marijuana Legalization Day, November 6!
If you’re a cannabis consumer, you know the importance of the date: November 6, 2012. This day marks the first day that marijuana was made legal for recreational use in two states: Washington and Colorado. This day was pivotal not just for the landmark decisions these states made but in the fight to federally legalize marijuana.
The History of Marijuana Legalization
Before this pivotal day, cannabis has had a storied history in the United States.
- Early 1900s: The earliest restrictions seemed to have started in the early 1900s, where marijuana was actually labeled as poison.
- 1920: Marijuana prohibitions began, and by 1930, Marijuana was labeled as a drug in every state.
- 1937: The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 placed a tax on the sale of cannabis. At this time, however, “cannabis” was a term used to refer to cannabis sativa or hemp.
(It’s important to note here that this act was influenced by businessmen with interest in the newspaper industry—Andrew Mellon, Randolph Hearst, and the DuPonts—because hemp was easier to grow and more economical than timber. And guess what Hearst owned? Timber holdings.)
- 1970: The Controlled Substances Act included cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug with no accepted medical use, and the federal government has continued to view cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug today.
- 1996: California ruffled a few feathers with the passing of Proposition 215, which permitted the use of medical cannabis. It basically stated that with a doctor’s recommendation, patients and designated caregivers could possess and cultivate marijuana for medical use. This led to a larger argument between state versus federal rights, and federal officials actively tried to slow the medical marijuana industry in California with raids, prosecutions, and civil injunctions.
- 2009: It wasn’t until 2009 that federal officials finally agreed to stop interfering with medical marijuana use and distribution. However, this was reversed by the DOJ in 2018.
- November 6, 2012: Colorado and Washington introduced Amendment 64 and Initiative 502 respectively. For all intents and purposes, they labeled the regulation of recreational cannabis to be similar to alcohol, allowing possession—up to one ounce—for adults 21 and older. Where they differed was Amendment 64 also allowed consumers to grow up to six plants for their own use. Both states applied regulation and taxes to commercial sales of cannabis.
Marijuana Legalization Now
Cannabis legalization is a constantly evolving issue. Fortunately, the Marijuana Policy Project is a great source that details the policies in each state, as well as which states are pushing toward legalization.
Federally, cannabis legalization continues to be a hot topic. The Trump administration sought to reverse some decisions made by the Obama administration and make it difficult for states who have legalized marijuana. As far as the Biden administration is concerned, the White House press secretary Jen Psaki has stated that while Biden is opposed to federal marijuana legalization, he supports incremental reform, including decriminalizing possession. This came after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden and Senator Cory Booker released a draft bill in support of federal legalization of marijuana.
As with all things related to the government—both state and federal—legalization will take time. However, it is promising that states have embraced both medical and recreational cannabis use. Added to that, Pew Research Center performed a survey that found an overwhelming number of adults in the United States feel that marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use. This can only help to push new policies forward that decriminalize and support the use of cannabis. We expect to see the trend of state-by-state legalization of marijuana over the coming years.
So let’s celebrate Marijuana Legalization Day and cross our fingers that we can add more states to the list where it is legal to consume medical and recreational cannabis.