Legalize marijuana. The word legalization and decriminalization have different meanings. Decriminalization means the reduction of criminal penalties for the possession of marijuana. Decriminalization means the production and sale of the drug are prohibited.
Decriminalization is a gateway to legalization, but it doesn’t analyze the effects of prohibition, like crime, corruption, harmful health effects.
Legalization eliminates marijuana from the criminal justice system and permits the government to use it for revenue purposes lawfully.
Marijuana is evolving in the United States of America. Even though the drug was previously banned, it is now taking control in various states across the country. Due to several actions in opposition to the forces of “reefer madness,” the people are now in favor of the green economy. Presently, adults can use marijuana in nine US states, and momentum in other states is growing. The hostility of the Justice Department on marijuana has not stopped the support for marijuana legalization.
What it will take to get Marijuana Legalized in the US
Currently, there are 29 states, including the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico which permit the utilization of medicinal marijuana with California being the first in 1996. In 2012, people of Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana for adult use which made them be the first jurisdictions in the world to legalize marijuana. After that, Oregon, California, Alaska, Nevada, and Massachusetts followed. At the beginning of the year, the Vermont state legislature legalized marijuana which made them become the first state legislature to do so.
New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York will hopefully be the next states to legalize, and marijuana legalization campaigns are already underway. Law reforms concerning marijuana can also be seen at the municipal level. States such as Atlanta, New Orleans, and Jackson, are set to decriminalize ownership of little amounts of marijuana. Baton Rouge, LA, and Albuquerque are also set to decriminalize marijuana.
According to a recent report by the Drug Policy Alliance, the evidence shows that marijuana legalization is progressing. States that have legalized marijuana are experiencing low rates of arrest, increase in marijuana tax revenue and low use within youths. Furthermore, the marijuana industry is creating employment opportunities that will beat the manufacturing sector by 2020.
Legalizing marijuana in the U.S will not only present opportunities for criminal justice reform–it will present new paths to economic empowerment. The Californian Proposition 64, which made marijuana legal in California in 2016, encourages equality within the marijuana industry, which is dominated by white. The proposition assigns funds for reinvestment in communities profoundly destroyed by the war on drugs. This reform further permits those with prior marijuana convictions to have a clean record and enter the marijuana industry.
The increase in support for legalization has increased the potential for economic growth in the marijuana industry. Legalizing marijuana should be an opportunity for those with an entrepreneurial spirit to take advantage.
Companies such as Hood Incubators are now encouraging the black community to participate in the evolving marijuana industry. Hood Incubators have formed pathways to for people of color who were harmed by the war on drugs to own marijuana businesses.
Black people now have access to the marijuana industry, for example, Wanda James, the first Black female entrepreneur to own a marijuana dispensary in Colorado.
What lies ahead?
Despite the increased support for legalization at state and local level, marijuana still remains illegal at the federal level. Nevertheless, the Congress has shown some promising momentum in Congress which can finally end the prohibition of marijuana. The Marijuana Justice Act introduced by Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey could put an end to federal marijuana prohibition, encourage racial justice and save communities affected by the war on drugs. Representative Barbra Lee (D-CA) created a companion bill in the House of Representatives.
Our perspectives towards marijuana are continually changing, and it has made the old guard of drug warriors not to go down without a fight. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a vow to stop the evolution of legalization and decriminalization at the state and the local level. In 2016, Nashville and Memphis both voted to decriminalize marijuana. However, their votes were canceled last year by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. Moreover, the state legislature is set to pass a medical marijuana legislation bill. If Booker’s bill passes, it will stop the war on marijuana, fix the disasters the drug war has inflicted on the black communities.