Mar 22, 2015 9:08 AM EDT
NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The times, they are a-changin’ for marijuana, as longtime prohibition laws risk going up in flames.
The New York Times advocated for legalization of pot at a national level last year, arguing that the “social costs” of the current prohibition laws are vast — unreasonable prison sentences, a judicial system skewed against minority groups and the disadvantaged, the turning of law-abiding citizens into petty criminals.
While the road to legalizing and regulating marijuana use will not be one without challenge, The Times (the first mainstream media outlet to issue an opinion so strong) remains optimistic that creating the systems for the “manufacture, sale and marketing” of the drug are solvable problems.
Already, calls for legalization are growing louder, albeit at a state-by-state level rather than federal. Colorado was the first state to pass and implement legal marijuana laws with its first sale on January 1 this year; next was Washington which opened the doors to legal recreational pot stores on July 8. Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, grassroots activists fight and campaign, while politicians teeter on whether to relax laws.
According to a national survey by Pew Research Center earlier this year, 75% of Americans believe the sale and use of marijuana will eventually be legal nationwide, a majority opinion even among those who oppose its use.
The legislative momentum has already taken root. In the November vote, marijuana legalization initiatives passed in three of the four elections where cannabis reform appeared on the ballot. Voters in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. expressed their desire to legalize marijuana. Florida, the other state where there was a referendum to amend the state’s constitution with regard to cannabis use, needed 60% of the vote to pass medical marijuana reform but garnered only 58%. (That near miss confirms the state’s place on our list of states likely to see legalization ahead.) It’s a lucrative move for states to legalize the drug, too. Since Colorado embraced legalization, the state’s coffers have gotten fuller. Colorado had generated nearly $11 million from tax and licensing fees on recreational marijuana sales and excise taxes as of June 9, according to a Denver Post published on that day.
Even President Obama has weighed in on the debate of whether or not to legalize. In an interview with The New Yorker earlier this year, Obama supported Colorado and Washington’s legalization efforts but stopped short of making any statement on whether it could play out on a federal level.
“It’s important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished,” he told the publication.
The tide continued to turn in marijuana’s favor in the midterm elections on November 4, as Alaska and Oregon approved the legalization and regulation of marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol for those age 21 or older and also allowed home cultivation. Washington, D.C. voters also approved an initiative to make it legal for adults to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana.
The dominoes are stacked, but which will be the next to fall? TheStreetinvestigates the 8 states likely to next embrace marijuana law reform…
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