Since the first US state legalized cannabis, each year that passes has seen a massive increase in the medical and recreational marijuana movement. The cannabis movement has experienced significant push back along the way, of course. But the federal government maintaining marijuana as a schedule one narcotic is still one of the most influential impediments.
Despite American unrest, the past few years have seen more US states than ever-shifting towards legalized marijuana for recreational and medical purposes. In November 2020 alone, five new states prodigiously voted to legalize marijuana, joining the growing number of states in the US to already embrace progressive cannabis policies.
States that green light decriminalization, legalization, or some other form of progressive drug policy contend with several social issues. Make no doubt about it; the economic impact of legalizing cannabis is likely one large aspect of the legalization equation.
The newest states to embrace change (Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Mississippi) can expect mounds in tax revenue and economic growth in the coming years. A great example is the first state to legalize cannabis which we invoked earlier. That state is Colorado and in the first five years post-legalization they raked in some $160 million in tax revenue, putting it towards their public school system.
In a time where the criminal justice system is under a microscope, cannabis legalization is hitting pretty well with most people. Cannabis laws and “policing-for-profit” policies disproportionately affect over-policed minority communities. Police arrest well over one million people per year for drug possession, many of which lead to unnecessary and costly prison sentences.
Furthermore, in the legalized world, young adults and teens aren’t at risk of compromising their future employment prospects with a criminal record for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The War on Drugs hasn’t seemed to help much with America’s cannabis use, and let’s face the fact that people are going to use cannabis, whether it’s legal or not.
Opponents to legalization argue that the research on the health and safety of cannabis just isn’t there, while the problem remains that without federal legalization, or at least decriminalization, adequate research on cannabis remains largely difficult to accomplish. However, we do have data that shows public health and social cost can improve in places that legalize cannabis, and it pretty much always does.
Legalization and decriminalization have a huge impact on teen drug perception, the amount of research put into the safety of cannabis, and through industry regulation, those who inevitably use cannabis will be doing so at a lower risk. Surely it won’t be too much longer before the remaining states and federal government fall to the marijuana movement. Historically, federal laws on things don’t change until a majority of states have already implemented progressive policies.
One might be hopeful to think they’ll live to see the day when the entire USA has embraced cannabis for medical and recreational. For now, we have to be grateful for how far we’ve come. In 2021 we still have a mishmash of states with cannabis policies ranging from fully legalized for all purposes to fully illegal.
Here’s the breakdown of each US State’s cannabis policy status in early 2021.
The US States with Legal Recreational Marijuana
- South Dakota
- New Jersey
The US States with Medical and Decriminalized Marijuana
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
The US States with Medical Marijuana Only
- West Virginia
The US States with Only Decriminalized Cannabis
- North Carolina
The US States Where Marijuana is Illegal
All in all, a dozen US states remain with cannabis being fully illegal. While states such as Georgia have approved a medical marijuana program for limited conditions, it only allows CBD oil and offers no licensing or regulatory framework for Georgians to purchase their medicine in the state.
However, since 2018 cannabis and hemp derivatives such as CBD oil or Delta-8 THC (see products here) have taken the spotlight as the only federally legal cannabis-derived products available in all 50 states.
- South Carolina
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