Insights

Stirring the Pot: The Current Status of Marijuana Legalization in the United States

Over 60% of Americans now favor the legalization of marijuana, according to recent polling data. Of course, there is more than the binary choice of simply legalizing marijuana or keeping it illegal under federal law (as it currently is). Some would accept the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes in their states, but not for recreational use, for example. Nevertheless, the issues of marijuana legalization and subsequent governmental regulations are frequently considered topics among lawmakers, both at the state and federal levels.

Currently, nine states permit the sale of marijuana to adults who are at least 21 years old for recreational usage, while over half allow marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes—twenty-nine states in total. Although most legal changes within states have been instituted via ballot initiatives, the state of Vermont became the first in the Union to pass marijuana legalization through their state legislature.

Lawmakers at state and federal levels are presently trying to push through legislation that either would provide funding for research on the effects of marijuana or regulate the sale of marijuana. In Rhode Island, for example, several lawmakers in their General Assembly recently introduced a bill that would ensure finances to perform an impact study related to marijuana’s safety. It should be noted that Rhode Island presently allows marijuana for medicinal purposes only, while their neighboring state of Massachusetts permits recreational use of marijuana.

The sponsors of the Rhode Island bill on health effects from marijuana are all Democrats, but marijuana legalization is not entirely split along partisan lines either. While most of the nine states that have legalized marijuana for recreational usage tend to lean Democrat, the largely conservative state of Alaska is also one of the nine. In Arizona, where marijuana is only legal for medicinal purposes, GOP lawmaker Todd Clodfelter has recently pressed the state to expand marijuana usage to be allowed for recreational purposes with the bill HCR2037. Clodfelter’s bill is co-sponsored by a Democrat lawmaker, Mark Cardenas.

If the Clodfelter bill passes, Arizona would become just the second state to legalize recreational marijuana through the legislature. Will it pass? As with most bills, there are many hurdles, but it is certainly possible.

At the same time, Arizona is not the only state with marijuana legalization bills before their legislatures. Sean Hornbuckle of West Virginia, for example, has made an effort to push legalization in the “Mountain State.” Georgia is another state that has had lawmakers push for marijuana legalization in the first couple of months in 2018.

While some states, like Wisconsin, are seeing movements towards the legalization of simply medical marijuana, others are moving towards sanctioning recreational marijuana. Even these latter proponents would retain some forms of regulations, such as the amount one is able to purchase and the age of the buyer (usually 21 and up). But as of right now, American lawmakers seem to be on a similar trajectory with a majority of the public, which is a gradual tolerance of marijuana legalization. Since younger people have polled higher on such values, it would seem likely that more and more states will continue to stir the pot of debating the legalization of marijuana, with a strong likelihood that others will join the nine states that have legalized recreational marijuana and the twenty-nine that allow it for medicinal usage.

 

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