In this article we provide an introduction to the hot topic of marijuana legalization in 2016. Cannabis has been used in many different cultures in the world since thousands of years ago, whether it was used as part of religious ceremonies, recreation-ally, and even used in traditional medications.
Legalization is in our hands
But since the early 20th century, cannabis or marijuana has been subject to legal restrictions in nearly all countries in the world. However, these restrictions vary from country to country, especially after many medical researchers found various marijuana health benefits, that finally led to law reforms concerning medical marijuana in some countries and even marijuana legalization.
Possession of marijuana in small quantities has been decriminalized in a lot of countries, and in a few countries like Uruguay, Netherlands, also some states in the USA including Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, possession is legal or effectively legal. Recently Mexico is also showing a tendency to move towards legalization of marijuana in the country’s effort to win the drug war.
Regarding medical marijuana, it’s already legalized in several countries including Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, Netherlands, Israel, Finland, Czech Republic, Belgium, Austria and in 23 US states plus Washington.
Marijuana Legalization – US
Even though it’s already legalized by many US state laws to use medical marijuana and even recreational use in a few states, possession, use and sale of marijuana are still illegal according to the US federal law. However, the recent developments show that Obama administration is giving some positive gestures about federal law concerning medical marijuana and who knows maybe legalization of cannabis for recreational use as well.
One of the first notable decriminalization acts was in 1978 when a man named Robert Randall was arrested for using cannabis to treat his glaucoma. He sued the federal government for that arrest. The judge justified the case and ordered the Food and Drug Administration to create a program for growing marijuana at the University of Mississippi and supply Randall with 300 marijuana cigarettes per month.
But when he tried to make HIV/AIDS patients also eligible for it in 1992, the program was discontinued by George H. W. Bush. Another attempt to reopen the program by an eligible brain tumor patient was also denied by Bush Administration.
Several years later, many US based advocate groups tried to modify the laws concerning the decriminalization of cannabis users, followed by a group of more than 530 libertarian economists seek for marijuana legalization in their open letter to the President, the US Congress, Governors of the USA, and also State Legislatures.
In 1997 the Connecticut Law Revision Commission gave recommendation to decriminalize adults aged 21 years and over who possess cannabis of one ounce or less. They recommend the punishment should be just a civil fine. New Mexico followed a few years later in 2001, then Oakland in 2004. Oakland, California even passed proposition Z that makes recreational marijuana sales, cultivation and use became the lowest priority of the city’s law enforcement.
The journey of legalization of marijuana for recreational use was already started since the 70s, when the Congress repealed mandatory penalties for any offense related to cannabis use and possession. They United States Congress also repealed The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act by separating cannabis from other narcotics, and tolerate possession of small amounts of marijuana by not giving mandatory sentences.
Since then, many states changed their anti-drug laws and decriminalized cannabis. Mostly possession of an ounce of marijuana or less are just defined as violation, which is less than a misdemeanor, that’s only punished with a fine or community service. US states that have decriminalized cannabis are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. In Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, possession of small amounts and the use of marijuana are even already legalized.
Marijuana Legalization – Canada
Quite similar with the United States, even though the use, possession, and sale of medical cannabis are already regulated at provincial levels, as declared by the superior and appellate courts in Ontario that Canada’s cannabis laws to be of no force and/or effect in case a prescription os obtained, but at the federal level, the appropriate articles from the Criminal Code of Canada and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act have not been deleted.
So just like in the United States where possession have been decriminalized at the State level but still considered illegal by the federal government. However, unlike in the United States where a lot of people are still prosecuted by the federal government even when the state has already decriminalized it, in Canada the protection for medical marijuana users is more definite. That’s probably why there are many “Cannabis refugees” in Canada coming from the United States. These refugees are medical cannabis users in the United States who have been persecuted in their country by the federal law enforcement.
Access to medical marijuana is established by Health Canada, starting in February 2000. Just like other places else where medical cannabis are legalized, patients must be eligible by obtaining an approval from a medical practitioner before they can buy and use medical marijuana. Health Canada is providing medical cannabis under the brand CannaMed, however, eligible patients are also permitted to grow their own marijuana for personal use.
However, legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Canada is still uncertain as many attempts to decriminalize the possession of marijuana for recreational use by activists and liberal politicians have always failed.
Marijuana Legalization– Mexico
The rapid change of marijuana policy in the United States have inspired political leaders in Mexico to do the same. The main reason is because many politicians including the Mexican President, Enrique Pena Nieto see that legalization of marijuana can actually help the country win the drug war they’ve been fighting against drug cartels.
President Enrique said “Keeping marijuana illegal in Mexico makes no sense when the plant is legalized north of the border”. Also the legalization of marijuana in a few states in the USA (which is the main destination of Mexican illegal marijuana export) have been proven to weaken these cartels. Right now, possession of small quantities of marijuana is already legal in Mexico, and it will be no surprise if legalization of marijuana will take place anytime soon or at least seriously discussed by the top policy makers in this country.
Legal marijuana sales forecast to hit $23B
Update: March 20, 2016
Another historic win for the people of Colorado, as NPR reports that the Supreme Court of the US has thrown out the lawsuit from Oklahoma and Nebraska to try and stop Colorado’s recreational drug statute. Indeed, Colorado has attracted many people who either live in or visit Colorado partly because of the availability of recreational marijuana, which was unanimously passed by voters several years ago. The neighboring states argue that many people are brining pot back across state lines into their states, where marijuana is still illegal and is causing increase crime in these other states.
So what do the Supreme Court’s actions mean? It means that the will not let this lawsuit stand, that Oklahoma and Nebraska have no case against Colorado, and that the people of Colorado can continue to enjoy their freedom and right to have free access to the marijuana plant. This further bodes well for the overall marijuana industry, who will continue to experience increased growth, as the marijuana legalization movement marches on.
DISCLAIMER: This article is not meant to provide you with personal legal advice, for that you should seek the advice of an attorney. Also, some portions of this article may not be accurate as changes in societal laws are happening daily.