If this year’s election has cleared anything, it is the public opinion on weed. With so many people supporting marijuana legalization on ballots, we can safely say that the chances that weed is going to be legalized in the USA are fairly high. The American history of weed-related convictions is a fascinating one. There is a decent amount of prejudice on a racial basis, as observed in records, and public opinions have seen a tremendous shift over the years. Legalizing Marijuana has been a potent issue, but it always lags behind in the list of more important issues among the people. But statistics and state-wise legalization show that people care about the change of this law.
When the people of US voted in 2020, there was one issue both Republicans and Democrats could agree on: the legalization of Marijuana. Based on the overwhelming majority of voters saying yes to this change means we are at the point in time where weed is going to be legalized in the USA. Voters gave their clear backing to Marijuana in Montana, Arizona, South Dakota, and New Jersey. New Jersey arrests about 30,000 people a year for marijuana possession, more than almost all other states. But this time, they voted to legalize Marijuana. Arizona and Montana voted to legalize it, so did South Dakota. Mississippi passed the Medical Marijuana. Now, one in every three Americans are living in a state where access to Marijuana and its use has been made legal by the state.
Oregon took it as far as to decriminalizing possession of all drugs on the Election Day. Over many years, America’s war on drugs has put millions of people in prison. And today, it is widely understood to have disproportionately affected people of color. For example, Black Americans usage rate of Marijuana is the same as White Americans but they are arrested for it at a much greater rate. Based on the FBI record from 2018, 567 Black Americans were arrested for the possession of Marijuana, whereas only 156 White Americans were arrested for the same crime. Usage of Marijuana was fairly the same as Black people had a usage rate of 17.8%, and White people had a usage rate of 16.5%.
Many states’ gradual voices clearly show that more and more Americans are starting to raise their voice against the country’s strict drug laws. But dissolving them entirely will be a lot more complex. Americans used to be almost unifyingly against legalizing Marijuana back in the 1970s. Today, every two out of three US citizens support it, but politicians, not so much. John Hudak from Brookings Institution told Vox in an interview that there is a gap between the public accpetance of issues, particularly cannabis policy, and legislators of state, or even Congress. John Hudak, a policy researcher who writes about America’s marijuana policies. He says the lag between how policial reps and the citizens think about weed has much to do with defining what kind of political issue it is. Closing this gap is what is going to decide if weed is going to be legalized in the USA.
Most Americans don’t use cannabis products; most Americans have never been arrested for a cannabis-related offense, as observed by Hudak. Thus, it ends up not being something that they are going to hold officials accountable for. Americans usually pick who they vote for because of factors like the health care of economy. Problems like weed usage is not an absolute priority for people but when asked about its legalizatoin, they will say ‘yes.’ They don’t protest; they are happy that weed is going to be legalized in the USA.
And that is why; almost all of the states have legalized Marijuana in a related fashion: Instead of the state legislature passing a detailed law, it was put directly as a question in the ballot to the people on Election Day. In an interview with Vox channel, Lindsay LaSalle from Drug Policy Alliance said that they had put ballot initiatives to use as a campaign and advocacy tool for decades. LaSalle is a drug policy strategist, and she has worked on a lot of these state ballot initiatives.
The legislature is often afraid to act, according to her observation. But one trouble with amending laws in this way with a mere ballot initiative is that the state has to figure out the details, and that is not always easy. For example, again, no one in New Jersey really knows what will eventually happen to all the convicts who are incarcerated, or have arrest records, for something that is legal now.
The other problem of these laws is that they create a gap with the federal government. Even though it is legal to have weed in many states, Marijuana is still classified as one of the most serious drugs, equal to heroin and LSD at the federal level,. That places federal laws on drug use in direct conflict with those of the state in all the ways. Legalized marijuana industries have a really difficult time getting any federally-backed bank to take their money. They are also unable sell their product across the states. So a farm in Nevada can’t sell to a store in California even though it is legal in either states. As the federal government considers Marijuana a controlled substance, scientists researching its effects often encounter complications with testing and funding.
But as many people in more states select legalizing Marijuana, this gap is going to become unsustainable. As LaSalle mentioned, having the more conservative states like South Dakota, Arizona, and Montana passing means that people at the federal level have to consider it in a much more robust way. We have seen something similar happen before. At first, same-sex marriages only got legalized in the US on state by state basis. But in 2015, 70% of Americans lived in states that had legalized gay marriages. In that exact year, it became legal throughout the country. Americans’ behaviors towards the war on drugs, and the mass incarceration it led to, are changing. More of them are accepting to embrace the drive to change those laws. If politicians won’t do it, they will. Therefore, we are very close to see that weed is going to be legalized in the USA.