The legalization of marijuana, in some form, was a ballot initiative in nine states, on Nov. 8, 2016. Five of the nine states voted for recreational use and the other four were focused on medicinal purposes.
California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts passed the recreational use of cannabis. These states join the ranks with Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and D.C. Arizona still offers legal medical marijuana but recreational use was voted down by 51.9 percent.
Florida, North Dakota, Montana, and Arkansas voted to join the 24 other states that have legalized the use of the plant.
New Recreational Marijuana States and Laws:
- Massachusetts: Recreational use, sale, possession, and cultivation of cannabis have been legalized. The law faced opposition from both sides of the isle. Republican Governor Charlie Baker and Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh joined Attorney General Maura Healey, in March, for a Boston Globe op-ed.
The state had decriminalized the use of weed for recreational use. It was also legalized for medicinal use, in 2012. Healey, Baker, and Walsh met to discuss this matter and agreed that the plant should not be easily accessible or sold commercially.
The voters in Massachusetts were divided. The recreational use of marijuana was supported by 54 percent. The new law will go into effect December 15. Cannabis sales will follow the same requirements as alcohol.
- California: Proposition 64 was viewed as the most important among the legalization issues on the ballot. Fifty-six percent of the voters agreed with the initiative, for people 21 and over. This not only completes recreational use of the plant on the West Coast, it benefits the state with the sixth-largest world economy.
Cannabis legalization passed despite opposition from Senator Dianne Feinstein and Governor Jerry Brown. In 2014, Brown said:
How many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?
The win of Proposition 64, does not simply allow for the commercial sale of marijuana, it rolled back the period of incarceration for thousands of people convicted on marijuana-related charges. The proposition went into effect at 12:01 a.m., on November 9. Residents can grow as many as six plants in their homes. However, it will not be available is stores until Jan. 1, 2018.
Driving under the influence of and smoking marijuana in public will remain illegal. Those who break this law will be charged a $100 fine.
- Nevada: Recreational use, cultivation, possession, and commercial sales of the plant passed with 54 percent. The law pertains to adults, 21 and over.
Most of the state is conservative, and until residents helped elect Obama, in 2008 and 2012, it was considered a Red state. However, the legalization of cannabis was opposed by Democratic Senator Harry Reid and Republican Governor Brian Sandoval.
Regardless, on Jan. 1, 2018, medical marijuana dispensaries will be able to apply for a license that will allow them to sell the plant products to anyone, 21 or older. Only the dispensaries will be eligible to sell cannabis.
- Maine: It is legal for adults, 21 and over, to use cannabis for recreational use. People can cultivate, possess, and purchase marijuana. The legislation barely passed with 50.3 percent.
The state will add a 10 percent sales tax on recreational cannabis. The new law will allow for retail stores and social clubs, as long as they are licensed and permitted in the municipalities where they grow.
Many states, including D.C., have opted to decriminalize recreational use of marijuana to save money. During an interview, in March, President Obama told Vice News that incarcerating people for marijuana-related charges is expensive. It was his hope, that if enough states decriminalized possession and use, Congress would reschedule the drug.
Legalization creates a new economy around the sales of marijuana and cannabis-infused lotions, oils, edibles, and related paraphernalia. Tax revenues have significantly increased in the states that have legalized recreational use of the plant.
Tax revenue from marijuana sales in Colorado was $70 million in the last fiscal year. This was twice the amount collected from alcohol sales over the same period. In 2013, cannabis sales were at $1.5 billion. The revenue grew to $2.7 billion, in 2015. Cannabis investment and research firm ArcView Group believes that if all 50 states and D.C. were to completely legalize the plant, it is possible the U.S. will gain $35 billion in revenue, by 2020.
What Will Trump Do?
Despite the economic boost the legalization of marijuana can bring to the U.S., there is a doubt that President-elect Donald Trump will be supportive. Leslie Bocskor, the president and founder of Electrum Partners, called the future leader of the U.S., “a boogie man of unparalleled size and fearsomeness to the legal cannabis industry.” His election could prevent the recall of the Controlled Substances Act, that Obama and many Americans wanted.
The marijuana wins gained in the 2016 election means that now, 60 million Americans will not be arrested, lose student loans, or their children for using the plant at the state level. It is still against federal law to use or possess cannabis.
Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance Ethan Nadelmann said that he cannot predict what Trump will do concerning marijuana or the Controlled Substances Act. In 1990, Trump was for the legalization of all drugs, regardless, he leaned heavily on the Republican drug-war rhetoric in political debates.
Nevertheless, Trump told the International Association of Chiefs of Police that marijuana was an issue for individual states to handle. He agreed that Congress should re-write certain laws to be compatible with the state laws. Lobbyists believe that any impact on the use of cannabis will depend on who Trump chooses for members of his Cabinet.
At one time, it was possible that Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor, would hold the position of U.S. Attorney General. He delayed the limited legalization of medical marijuana, as the governor of New Jersey. Throughout his own run as a Republican candidate for president, Christie spoke of enforcing federal law against cannabis. However, his involvement in the Bridgegate scandal could force Trump to look, instead, at the former Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani for U.S. Attorney General.
Giuliani was also a federal prosecutor. When he was mayor, more people were arrested (per capita), in New York City, for marijuana-related charges, than any other American city. This makes him another unwanted choice for those who use the plant, in any form, for any reason.
Hope for Cannabis in America
There is no need for weed-lovers to lose heart, reminds Professor Marsha Cohen, from UC Hastings College of the Law, in San Francisco. She stated that the Department of Justice cannot change things overnight; it would take time, organization, and money for Trump to crackdown on marijuana use nationwide. However, it may not matter who becomes the next attorney general.
Congress, led by Paul Ryan, has consistently denied funding for the Justice Department to impede on states that legalize cannabis. Despite the desires of the new attorney general, it is likely Congress will continue to prevent federal meddling at the state-level.
Cohen pointed out that Florida voted in favor of the new medical marijuana law and Trump with the same ballot. Therefore, it is uncertain what he will do, as president, concerning the use of the plant. Cohen stated that cannabis is a political issue and will remain such; it is possible that weed has become too popular to undo.
Update: Proposition 300, in Denver, was so close that it took a week for voters to receive their victory. The new law allows patrons to have cannabis in bars, yoga studios, art galleries, and other public areas. This opportunity went into effect as soon as it was passed. However, people are prohibited from smoking marijuana in public.
Emmett Reistroffer is a marijuana consultant for Denver and the campaign manager for Proposition 300. He stated that the measure was about personal responsibility. Adults should be allowed public places to enjoy marijuana.
The public use of cannabis comes with many caveats. Bars and restaurants that wish to become an establishment that allows the use of marijuana, must first gain the support of the area. Once proof of neighborhood approval is obtained, a license is needed for the establishment to be available for patrons to use cannabis-infused products.
Patrons of licensed establishments must provide their own marijuana. Colorado law prevents the sale of the plant and food or drinks from a singular location. People can use cannabis in these locations provided they are not smoking the product. The law, however, does make room to allow smoking areas outside. These areas would only be available under specific restrictions.
This new law will provide tourists with a private place to consume marijuana and prevent people from smoking in parks an on the sidewalks. The law in Colorado does not prevent or allow public use of cannabis. Proposition 300 reigns in the current local ordinances in regards to the use of the plant in public spaces.
By Jeanette Smith
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