While the 2016 presidential election has captured America’s attention, there is only one subject grabbing more headlines than whatever offensive thing Donald Trump has said this week, and that’s marijuana.
Magazines like TIME, National Geographic and Newsweek have devoted numerous covers to the issue. The Washington Post now regularly features marijuana statistics in its WonkBlog column. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta has now produced three ratings-blockbuster specials on medical marijuana, and the other cable news networks have their own special reports and reality series on pot.
It’s no wonder.
American attitudes toward marijuana have changed more rapidly in the past 10 years than any other issue aside from same-sex marriage rights. In 2006, the Gallup Poll showed just over a third of Americans (36 percent) supported marijuana legalization. There were just eight medical marijuana states at the time, and marijuana legalization had suffered defeats at the state level in two consecutive congressional elections.
Today, the Gallup Poll has shown its third-straight majority support nationwide for legalization—a 58 percent approval that matches the first majority with a 51 percent majority in-between. There are now 23 states with medical access to marijuana or marijuana products, 16 states with medical access to low-THC marijuana products and four states that have outright legalized adult personal use of marijuana.
In 2016, the volume knob on marijuana gets cranked up to 11—eleven more states in play, that is.
There is already one state, Nevada, with adult personal use legalization on the ballot. Four more states—California, Arizona, Massachusetts and Maine—are likely to have legalization on the ballot. Florida is poised to make another run at medical marijuana access, and Missouri might be able to make the ballot for medical as well. Michigan and Ohio have an outside shot at getting legalization on the ballot, and Vermont and Rhode Island may bypass the initiative process by legalizing marijuana through their legislatures.
And don’t forget that hundreds of sovereign Native American nations also are considering whether to legalize marijuana.
Then there are the legal issues still yet to be solved for the states that have already reformed their marijuana laws.
Marijuana businesses still don’t have access to banking services and cannot deduct their standard costs of doing business thanks to financial and tax regulations designed to thwart the cocaine kingpins of the 1980s, not the legitimate operations of state-legal marijuana enterprises.
Lawful medical marijuana patients still face firings, evictions and denial of life-saving organ transplants thanks to antiquated policies created in support of the federal scheduling of marijuana as a “dangerous drug of abuse.”
So enjoy today’s New Year’s Day holiday, and mark it down as Day One of the greatest year for marijuana in America to date. We have a lot of work to do, so let’s get to it!
(Photo Courtesy of CaliforniaMarijuanaCollege.com)