Marijuana Legalization: History, Impact and Stigma

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Western states in the U.S. have often held a reputation for being much more accepting of marijuana. Recreational cannabis is legal for selling, consuming, and purchasing in California, Oregon, and Washington State. Nestled just south of this cannabis corner of the nation is Arizona, a state where only cannabis for medical use is legally available.

In Arizona, a person who is a qualifying patient can request a medical marijuana card. To qualify a person must have one of the following medical conditions: Chronic, severe pain severe nausea, seizures, persistent or severe muscle spasms, cancer, glaucoma, Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), Hepatitis C, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Agitation of Alzheimer’s disease or Cachexia, or wasting syndrome.

In the state of Arizona, not all medical patients can grow and cultivate their own marijuana plants. A patient is allowed to grow their own cannabis on their own property if there are no medical dispensaries within 25 miles of a patient’s legal address. These patients still have the option to go to a dispensary if they choose to do so. Sometimes people are under the impression that Arizona has recreational cannabis, but all dispensaries still require a legal medical marijuana card for the state of Arizona to even enter the store.

Marijuana legalization has caused much confusion when it comes to cannabis and the workplace. It is illegal for any employer to discriminate against a future employee based on a positive cannabis drug test if the person is a medical marijuana patient in the state. There is a slight loophole, where if an employer can prove that hiring someone with positive drug screening results causes a loss of their license or income, they can reserve the right to not hire them. Additionally, if an employee is using any drugs or under the influence of drugs while working, the employer reserves the right to fire that employee.

Currently, marijuana legalization varies from state to state. In some recreational states, there are licensed store-fronts and dispensaries that any person, resident or not, over the age of 21 can enter the store and purchase large amount of cannabis and marijuana products. In D.C., the law is a bit murkier. There are currently no store fronts that sell cannabis for recreational purposes. Weirdly, residents can get cannabis delivered to their homes, and individuals can visit “pop-up” events where they purchase items and receive cannabis items as a “gift.”

D.C. law contains many loopholes for those who wish to obtain and use cannabis. Cannabis companies often have functioning websites and require ID verification before prices and strains are spoken about. Like in a pipe shop, language must be used specifically and one has to be careful they do not say the wrong thing.

In addition to D.C, 33 states have passed legislation that broadly legalizes marijuana in some form. Recreational weed states include California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Vermont, Nevada, Alaska, Maine, and Michigan. Recreational marijuana is decriminalized, which is basically a step down from recreational legalization, in a large number of states. These include Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia (only in the cities of Atlanta and Savannah), Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico (just in the city of Albuquerque), New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island.

Opening dispensaries for citizen’s use is not the only way that cannabis legalization benefits individuals. New York recently cleared past criminal records for almost 400 residents that had past low-level cannabis convictions in a civil case. A new law that has just been passed and will go into effect at the end of the month aims to remove all low-level cannabis convictions from all court and criminal records.

This is a huge victory for residents of New York. Many individuals who have cannabis convictions on their record, only have cannabis convictions on their record. The civil case, which featured 360 residents of New York, outlined the ways that the new law is going to go into effect. Until now, a signed affidavit was required for a person to request their record to be cleaned, and that caused many people to typically avoid the lengthy process.

Clearing the records of ‘criminals’ that have marijuana convictions is a huge step for not only marijuana activists but civil rights activists as well. The war on drugs is still not over, and large numbers of people of color are being targeted and prosecuted for drug possession. A black person is much more likely to get pulled over for a “stop-and-frisk,” by a police officer. There is no data that backs up the claim that black people use drugs at a more frequent rate than whites. It is held that people generally use drugs at the same rate despite being white or black. Black people are just more likely to get in trouble with the law for it.

Marijuana legalization is still pending in many areas, but it seems almost every day new legislation and laws are appearing to get rid of the penalties associated with marijuana possession and put new regulations in place to set up dispensary store fronts. Lawmakers and politicians are either going all-in and supporting the move towards legalization, or suffering the loss of many supporters by rejecting the drastic change.

Legalization is also benefiting brands and companies as well. Many corporations are choosing to partner with cannabis companies and collaborate with growers to expand their businesses. Some brands, such as Ben and Jerry’s, are choosing to advocate for cannabis legalization and expunging old cannabis records. This is a great idea for brands that are looking to step into the national spotlight and establish brand recognition as well as loyal customers.