So much marijuana reform, so much time left on the calendar in 2017. Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wyoming, and Washington, D.C. all have strong policymakers working to actively legalize and regulate cannabis. When passed, these 14 states will follow in the footsteps of Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. It’s a common adage in the cannabis industry that once Texas legalizes weed, the country’s truly gone to pot. Or something.
Nonetheless, a potential 22 states with full-on legalization would be impressive—and that’s not counting states that have decriminalized or legalized medical marijuana programs. The bottom line: An overwhelming majority of U.S. states, almost all 50 (plus Puerto Rico and Guam), are reforming cannabis laws.
What could happen?
Some of these initiatives, bills, and state constitutional amendments will get shot down, either by voters or various branches of state government. Wyoming and Mississippi specifically have experienced hurdles in the process requiring policymakers to go back to the drawing board and develop new ways to introduce legalization. Regardless, voters in both states support reform, especially decriminalization. In many states that have already legalized cannabis, lawyers and courts have been offering expungements of past cannabis convictions—something we all want to see.
A look at the national perspective.
Polls show nearly 90 percent of Americans support medical marijuana while around 60 percent support legalization. Why the discrepancy? Well, a number of people across the country associate legalization with taxation, believing people should have an inalienable right to cultivate and trade cannabis at will. Yet, many legal states have proven that legalization yields this ability, enabling both personal home cultivation and free trade of cannabis so long as no money is exchanged. However, not everyone wants to grow cannabis and many people favor the safety and convenience of buying cannabis from a local dispensary, even if it means extra tax.
In states that have opted to add tax at the register, this currently equates to prices hovering around $30–$50 per eighth, tax included. That’s the same price most of us were paying on the black market 20 and 30 years ago for premium flower, and it’s not too shabby. While consumer taxes from regulated cannabis are proposed to support community improvements in education and infrastructure, the overall price of cannabis is expected to decline, one day putting cannabis pricing on par with your local produce at the grocery store. Brussel sprouts for $2.99 per pound? Cannabis may get there as well, and the tax onus may be placed on cannabis businesses moving the most bulk.
The future of legalization.
Much remains to be seen. With recent administrations showing outward tolerance and support of budding regulated cannabis markets, it appears a logical next step would be to reschedule cannabis on a national scale, permitting states to continue creating their own cannabis policy and regulated cannabis programs. The legal transfer of cannabis across state lines and medical marijuana program reciprocity are two other outcomes that can greatly benefit the adult-use and medical cannabis communities as a whole. With Israel moving to legalize the exportation of cannabis, Canada set to implement legalization in 2018, and additional regions jumping on board, a global cannabis marketplace is beginning to unfold.
Advocacy is essential.
Twist up and take the ride. Not enjoying the process? Get involved. Joining networking groups, attending town halls and committee meetings, discussing sound policy with your local and state representative, and volunteering for lobby groups all extend an opportunity for anyone interested to help shape local, state, national and global cannabis reform.