The world is changing, and the future of marijuana looks bright in the US. Currently, 33 of 50 states have legalized medical marijuana since 1996. And we have already seen 11 different states legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use, and there could well be more to come.
Since 1970 cannabis has been classified and considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance, and this meant that it was placed on equal footing with dangerous drugs such as LSD and heroin. However, things have changed in recent times, and it seems like governments, both state and federal, are thawing on the issue.
Both Republican and Democratic candidates are embracing the legalization process head-on. This shows the growth of the medical and recreational markets across the country, and, for many people, it also signifies a long-overdue movement. What’s more, voters’ voices are seemingly indicating that there are significant benefits to this, and almost two-thirds of voters (66% of Americans) actively back legalization.
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The Case to Legalize
Many support the case to legalize marijuana nationwide, and there are good arguments to support this. Candidates in favor of the legalization (to legalize marijuana nationwide) point out that the criminal penalties are often unnecessarily severe. Indeed, some candidates, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have called for a change to the criminal justice policies surrounding marijuana convictions. In some cases, they have called for them to be overturned.
What Does Sanders Think?
So, we know that Bernie Sanders is calling for reforms to the laws and supports the idea of expunging previous arrests for marijuana. He also has a comprehensive marijuana blueprint that calls for federal reform and the creation of an independent board and offers a $10 million grant program to help people start their pot farms. Bernie is also a vocal supporter of both the Marijuana Justice Act and the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act.
Calls for Dramatic Changes
These calls for a dramatic change to legislation are not just coming from Sanders. Indeed, many Democrats who are not currently in Congress also want to see an upheaval of federal criminal justice policies. There have been many ideas called for to achieve these changes, with some proposing more funds for states looking to overhaul their policies. There has also been the suggestion floated of a referendum to allow the American people to decide whether or not they want to see marijuana legalized.
Let the States Decide
There are also those who feel the best course of action would be to let the states decide on their own individual laws surrounding marijuana legalization. Currently, the government seems happy to allow states that have legalized markets to do as they wish, but there is no legislation protecting this, and things could be reversed at any moment. This is why some are calling for the federal government to issue states the power to operate state-legal marijuana markets, which they can oversee without worrying about punishment from the federal government.
Bloomberg Changes His Stance
Michael Bloomberg has seemingly changed his stance in recent times. Once an advocate for punishing marijuana-based crimes pretty severely, the former Mayor of New York and current Democratic candidate has softened his views. Since beginning his run for DNC candidate, Bloomberg has said that he supports states having control over their own legalized marijuana markets, without federal interference. Interestingly, Bloomberg has pledged to tackle crime by eliminating penalties for pot possession, but, also, on a much larger scale, spending more than $22 billion in the next decade to try to half the US prison population! An ambitious man, no doubt, and perhaps one to watch for the future.
What Does Biden Think?
Joe Biden has also shown his support for state-legal markets, and he, too, has evolved his views significantly. In 1994, the Democrat-backed a crime bill that took tougher stances on drug sentencing and ended up with a lot more people in prison. But he now supports state policies surrounding marijuana and has even refused to rule out national legalization. However, the caveat here was that he stressed that he would not get behind full legalization without the support of medical professionals who could all testify to its medicinal qualities.
The President’s View
Now Trump is an interesting one because he has never publicly stated his support for marijuana legalization, and it has continued to remain a Schedule I substance during his presidency. But thus far, he has seemed perfectly happy with leaving states alone to do their own thing. Indeed, the President has vocally offered his approval and support for states regulating and legalizing their individual weed markets and industries. Trump has also been fairly non-committal about whether his administration actually plans to legalize marijuana fully. It seems logical that the President will maintain a similar stance should he win a second term in office.
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Understanding what the future of marijuana is likely to look like in the United States is difficult to quantify. Many candidates change their minds over time, and you get both Republicans and Democrats in agreement on issues like this. It seems like a natural progression to allow states to set their own laws and make their own decisions regarding marijuana markets. However, the real issue is more to do with whether the federal government would be happy handing the power over to them entirely or prefer to remain a looming presence and change laws at will if needed.
The future of marijuana in the United States remains to be seen so far, but signs point to a positive move toward legalization. State-regulated laws would seem to be the most logical choice, making sense if you think about it. Letting different states make their minds up about the laws surrounding pot looks to be the direction things are headed. But Americans might need to wait until after the next elections are over before they get a bearing on how things might unfold.