In case you missed it due to other Election Night distractions, recreational marijuana is on a roll.
South Dakota, New Jersey, Montana, and Arizona in ballot measures joined the ranks of the recreational marijuana states. The votes were not even close. Liberal and conservative states agree on recreational marijuana.
Since Colorado and Washington State passed ballot measures in 2012 to legalize recreational marijuana for the first time in almost 100 years, the cannabis map has not stopped growing. It added another 25 percent on Tuesday when those four states increased the number of recreational marijuana states to 16, including the District of Columbia.
The one-fourth of the country where marijuana is fully legal has raised agricultural and food safety issues hardly thought about only ten years ago. State agricultural departments approve pesticides that may be used by cannabis growers and health departments must regulate the manufacturers of edibles.
Marijuana’s widely perceived safety and popularity is becoming so set in the public’s mind that it may be spilling over to other parts of the drug reform agenda.
Oregon voters easily passed Measure 110 to use tax revenue from marijuana sales to fund drug state treatment programs. Measure 110 also repeals felony and misdemeanor charges for drug possession —even heroin and opioids —and replaces it with a $100 fine and the legal requirement to report for a drug assessment within 45 days.
The assessments presumably would provide the pool from which those in need of drug treatment would be selected with the program funded by marijuana sales taxes. Substance abuse treatment centers are to be “established and operational” in Oregon by Oct. 1, 2021.
Measure 110 was successfully sold to voters as a policy shift to “a health-based approach to drug addiction.” It’s also been called “the biggest blow to date on the war on drugs.”
Clearly, American attitudes about drugs are in a state of change.
Beyond the 16 states with recreational marijuana sales, all but seven of the others have either decriminalized smaller amounts, provided for medical use, or both.
Marijuana remains entirely illegal in only Idaho, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Kansas, Tennessee, Alabama, and South Carolina. And the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to classify marijuana as a schedule 1 drug—just like heroin.
With this past Tuesday’s election, drug reform was moving beyond cannabis. The District of Columbia Tuesday voted 89,714 to 27,429 in favor of the decriminalization of “psychedelic plants.
And in addition to the decriminalization of all drugs, Oregon voters also gave approval to “magic mushrooms” in “Psilocybin therapy.” Said therapy is reportedly useful in certain mental health treatments.
When Colorado and Washington State broke through on recreational marijuana eight years ago, few predicted how fast and how far it would spread. The states as “Laboratories of Democracy” is one of the great strengths of our federal system.
But there are times, and this is one of them, where the laboratory experiment needs to be over. Recreational marijuana has carried the day. Tuesday settled it. It’s time for Congress to square the circle. Only the federal government can make things uniform across state lines and exempt actions that are to the contrary.
Other items for a drug reform agenda and the mushrooms need more work in the state laboratories.
And for the record, this Colorado-based writer has no financial interest in this state’s thriving marijuana business.
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