The last decade has been very exciting for cannabis enthusiasts. We have moved from an era where cannabis was taboo to an era where we are having great discussions on this subject. And as you may know, any time a subject becomes strongly controversial, change is about to happen. As it appears, the scales are tipped in favor of full acceptance of cannabis; the cloud has a silver lining.
Many assumed that we would wake up one day and voila, cannabis would be up for sale at every street corner. This cannot be further from the truth, and it would have actually resulted in mighty chaos. Major changes, such as the Great Schism, take place in baby steps. It starts with an idea that attracts followers who push for legislative changes that eventually result in major change. This may not be as smooth as I have painted it to be, but the sequential events follow a similar pattern.
What we can Learn from the Legalization of Alcohol
Many may not be aware that Once Upon A Time, alcohol was prohibited in the US. This happened between the periods of 1920-1933. Before prohibition, certain facets began pushing for laws to enforce sobriety and limit the negative consequences associated with alcohol consumption. Like a simmering kettle, the groups pushed and shoved until the movement gained nationwide support. Eventually, the government yielded and in 1920, alcohol was prohibited for manufacture or distribution within the borders of the US.
A few years later and a different facet began noticing the futility of the prohibition efforts which were costing billions but yielding no results. The law did not manage to enforce sobriety in the population but continued to cost the taxpayer. Just like it had happened with prohibition, the facet pushed for the end of prohibition which happened in 1933. However, the change did not take place in a day, it was not until 1966 that Mississippi-the last man standing- gave up on their alcohol prohibit laws. This took about 30 years in total.
Cannabis Legalization is on Baby Steps
Cannabis legalization efforts are state-led, so far much has been achieved at the state level. Prohibition of cannabis began in 1937, it took 36 years for the tide to turn; in 1973 Oregon began to go-soft on their cannabis laws. However, it was not until 1996 that the first state took the bold state to legalize cannabis for medicinal use; that was the state of California. Here is a sketch of what this looked like:
1937: The Marihuana Tax Act is enacted which puts restrictions on cannabis consumption and sale.
1996: California becomes the first state to legalize medical cannabis.
1998: Oregon, Alaska, and Washington follow in legalizing medical cannabis. Maine follows a year later.
2000: Hawaii, Nevada, and Colorado legalize medical cannabis.
2012: Colorado and Washington legalized adult use of marijuana. 9 other states had legalized recreational cannabis by the end of 2018. Alaska, California, District of Colombia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Vermont.
By 2018, the following states had legalized cannabis for medicinal use: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.
2018 also saw the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp throughout the US.
Signals of the end of an Era
More than half of America has accepted cannabis as a therapeutic compound, while one fifth has accepted cannabis as a recreational substance akin to alcohol. In 2018, the FDA approved the first CBD based drug- Epidiolex. This was an encouraging move for Big Pharma who has now moved into the space to research other cannabis-based treatments. The media is awash with whatever is happening in the world of cannabis while celebrities are openly declaring their support for cannabis. The citizen from both sides of the divide is supercharged and vocal about their stand on the issue. This marks the make-or-break moment for cannabis legalization.
As much as President Trump has not openly declared his stand on the issue, cannabis is clearly an issue on his mind. The president, speaking at a press briefing recently had the following to say:
“We’re going to see what’s going on. It’s a very big subject and right now we are allowing states to make that decision,” Trump said. “A lot of states are making that decision, but we’re allowing states to make that decision.”
The president was responding to a question asked by DC Examiner reporter Steven Nelson whether cannabis would be federally legalized while he was in office. This was first reported on Marijuana Moment.
It took slightly over 30 years for the “Berlin walls” on cannabis prohibition to collapse. 1996 marked the beginning of the legalization of cannabis. It appears that we are on the final leg of this stretch, the writing is on the wall.
1. CATO Institute (1991): Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure. Retrieved from https://www.cato.org/policy-analysis/alcohol-prohibition-was-failure
2. Marijuana Moment (2019): President Trump Reiterates His Administration Will Let States Legalize Marijuana. Retrieved from https://www.marijuanamoment.net/president-trump-reiterates-his-administration-will-let-states-legalize-marijuana/
3. FDA (218): FDA approves the first drug comprised of an active ingredient derived from marijuana to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-drug-comprised-active-ingredient-derived-marijuana-treat-rare-severe-forms