As the countdown continues towards Trump’s inauguration, advocates across the country have been scrambling to get as much legislature for cannabis reform organized as possible. While Trump stated during his election that he would not interfere with state policy, he has also recommended that Jeff Sessions, a vocal opponent of cannabis reform, become the next Attorney General. Recent statements made by Sessions have neither alleviated nor confirmed a right to be worried and both opponents and advocates have no idea where the new administration will leave the country when it comes to marijuana legislature.
A Few Steps Forward and Potentially One Back
According to the most recent Gallup poll, 60 percent of the country is in favor of fully legalizing marijuana for adult use. As it stands, 28 states have legalized medical marijuana while 8 states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana. In the most recent election on November 8, 2016, California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine, joined Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and D.C. in ending prohibition. The victory for cannabis reform was somewhat dampened by Trump’s choice for Attorney General and legislators in state’s that have not made the move to legalize either medical or recreational marijuana are working hard to make sure their state has looser marijuana laws regarding legalization and criminalization.
A Wave of Cannabis Reform
Lawmakers in Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah have presented their own medical marijuana petitions this year. This move is being pushed forward, even in the states where Republicans are in control of legislature. In Rhode Island, Vermont, Delaware, New Mexico and New Jersey, lawmakers have brought forth measures that would legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana. Despite the enthusiasm towards legalization, many legislators have differing thoughts on how the process should occur. 3 separate bills are being considered in Connecticut, 2 have been presented in New Mexico and 3 medical marijuana bills have been filed in Missouri.
Movements Toward Decriminalization
Some states are talking about decriminalization. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing legislators in New York to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use. He believes that criminal punishment for marijuana use is unnecessary. His office sent a letter to legislators, saying, “The illegal sale of marijuana cannot and will not be tolerated in New York State, but data consistently show that recreational users of marijuana pose little to no threat to public safety. The unnecessary arrest of these individuals can have devastating economic and social effects on their lives.”
Regardless of the measures being created and presented, the sentiment is clear. There is a loud voice across the country, both Republican and Democratic, that is pushing for cannabis reform. The DEA has still classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has no medicinal value and is the most dangerous drug, on par with heroin and LSD. So long as this classification holds strong, the Attorney General can crack down on states with any marijuana industries in place. Legislature would have to be adjusted in order to allow this to happen first. As it stands, the Obama administration created laws to protect states from federal interference by not allowing federal funds to be used for this purpose. Now legislators are working hard to ensure they receive the benefits of that protection.