There has never been a better year in the age of marijuana reform in the United States than 2014. Sure, some would argue this claim, citing the 2012 victories of Colorado and Washington, which are revered as the newfound forefathers of recreational marijuana. But the girth of the legislative efforts over the past year, have proved that the rolling stone of legal weed in America is now, not only over the mountain but careening down that bastard at an unstoppable rate of speed. No longer is the majority of the nation buying into the rotten philosophies of the great pot propagandist, Uncle Sam, and the war on marijuana now appears to be strapped in the electric chair waiting for someone to pull the kill switch.
It is often said that history repeats itself, which in reviewing the successful initiatives to legalize the leaf over the past year, indicates that though a process of political evolution, the United States is bound to dwell within a post-prohibitionary existence in the very near future. These days, the majority of the American people are fed up with the drug war, convinced it has been nothing more than a scam, and more citizens are in favor of legalizing marijuana than ever before. It is for this reason that statewide initiatives to change pot laws are predicted to spread like a plague in 2015. However, the raging impetus of pot proponents across the country may have not been as strong had it not been for the exceptional progress made throughout the year. So, in the spirit of a tribute, here is an ultimate look back at the most important legislative wins in 2014, and the aftershock that can be expected over the the next two years.
Voters Legalize Recreational Marijuana in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington DC
Voters in Alaska and Oregon stepped up in 2014 and legalized recreational marijuana, passing with 53% and 55% of the votes, respectively, while those residing in the District of Columbia passed a similar measure, Initiative 71, a ballsy initiative aimed at allowing residents to cultivate cannabis in the prohibition capital of America. Of course, the idea of the average citizen deciding that marijuana should grow in the backyard of the White House crushed the ego of some congressional leaders, who weeks later, tossed an amendment into a federal spending bill that castrated the measure on Capitol Hill and spilled the blood of democracy on the streets of Washington DC.
Earlier in the year, however, the District passed a measure to decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, which made its way through a mandatory congressional review period unscathed – this despite the slimy, pot-hating efforts of Maryland Representative Andy Harris. Yet, in the end, Harris managed to persuade the powers-that-be to include his proposal in a trillion dollar omnibus spending bill to prohibit the use of federal and local funds to legalize a Schedule I controlled substance. Some believe that Harris’ underhanded tactic is the end for Initiative 71, while others argue that the verbiage of the measure, specifically the use of the word “enact,” is enough of a loophole to keep it alive. Unfortunately, the bill destroys the possibility of the District passing a recreational pot market, which the DC Council was in the process of developing at the time of this vicious death rattle.
The District is, however, still expected to submit Initiative 71 to Congress at the beginning of the year for its 60-day review. And while supporters are hoping for the best, no one really has any idea if the spending bill will keep legal weed out of the nation’s capital or not. At this point, the only aspect of this debacle that remains untouchable in the District is marijuana decriminalization – a law that went into effect over the summer.
Congress Prohibits DEA From Using Federal Funds to Raid Medical Marijuana, but No Ban on Weed Has Been Lifted
The same federal spending bill that may have put the kibosh on legal weed in the District of Columbia is also technically supposed to prohibit the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending tax dollars to interfere with medical marijuana states. Yet, while there is speculation that this effort quietly removed the federal ban on medicinal cannabis in the United States, it simply did not. Although the bill provides a certain level of protection for the medical marijuana community by discouraging federal prosecutors from going after these businesses and individuals with gnashing teeth, it will only do so in the 23 states with medical marijuana laws in place and not the remaining 27 – hence no federal ban has been lifted. In fact, the omnibus spending bill will only provide this shelter for the medical marijuana community until September of 2015, at which the bill is set to expire. At this time, it will be up to Congress to decide whether this legislation is renewed or snuffed out.
Medical Marijuana Passes in Minnesota and New York State
In 2014, state lawmakers in Minnesota and New York finally approved legislation to legalize medical marijuana. This was a huge deal, considering the two states had been fighting to get this done for over a decade. However, in May, the Minnesota legislature, beaten down by the tenacity of cannabis advocates, passed a measure to allow patients suffering from specific debilitating conditions to have access to non-smokable marijuana products.
In New York, pressure was put on the state legislature, as well as Governor Cuomo, to pass the Compassionate Care Act before the end of the summer session. In the end, a statewide medical marijuana program received approval, but not without sustaining some provisionary restraints, similar to those passed in Minnesota.
Medical Marijuana Passes in Maryland, So Does Decriminalization
In the spring of 2014, Governor Martin O’Malley signed legislation to legalize medical marijuana, as well as another bill that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of pot for recreational use. According to Marijuana Policy Project, the signing of these bills was the first time in American history that a governor approved two pieces of legislation on the same day to change the marijuana laws in any given state.
Marijuana Decriminalization Wins Big in November Election
Although the biggest news this year in the realm of marijuana reform has been the victories in Alaska, Oregon, and the District oflegali Columbia, there was also a metric ass-ton of initiatives passed across America in the November election to decriminalize the possession of marijuana. On the east coast, voters in South Portland, Maine approved this level of reform, while eight cities in Michigan voted to pass similar measures – giving way to the possibility of full legalization in 2016. Out west, in New Mexico, voters in two of the state’s largest counties removed the criminal penalties from pot possession.
Native Americans Given Permission to Legalize Marijuana on Reservations
By the end of 2014, it appeared as though the United States had experienced as much marijuana reform as it was going to in a 12-month span, but surprising news from the federal government, indicating that tribal reservations would be allowed to cultivate and sell marijuana, proved the nation was not entirely finished. The U.S. Justice Department instructed all U.S. Attorneys to no longer prosecute Native American tribes involved in “marijuana crimes,” as long as that business takes place on reservation lands. This news means individual tribes can now make the choice of whether or not to establish a cannabis market as a source of revenue, which would be economic salvation for the majority of them. Yet, only time will tell which, if any, tribes will take advantage of this opportunity.
As for 2015, it is predicted that more than 15 states will discuss measures to legalize marijuana, while Congress is expected to review somewhere around 20 bills pertaining to the reform of cannabis laws. There will also be a great deal of focus on promoting successful initiatives in California to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016, which most advocates believe will be the next big year in the realm of American pot reform.
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