Much has been accomplished in the last few years regarding legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use. In many places, it’s a non-issue, with cops in some countries turning a blind eye or even joining in. Smuggling of marijuana and the illegal cannabis trade has already substantially dropped since legalization, thus reducing crime and the resultant law enforcement costs. People are working in the marijuana industry, filling the jobs it has created, and sick people are getting medical help from medical marijuana. What more can we expect this year?
In the US, twenty-three states allow some form of legal cannabis and four states have legalized cannabis for recreational use. Uruguay led the world in legalizing cannabis nationwide, and other countries around the world are allowing small amounts of marijuana to be in one’s possession for personal use. Chile recently had its first harvest of marijuana for medical purposes, while Colombia’s president signed a decree to legalize the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana.
What does 2016 hold for marijuana?
It seems inevitable that we will eventually see marijuana legalization via legislative action in the US, and 2016 may just be the year this will happen. Perhaps it is not far-fetched to suppose that legalized medical marijuana that is not restricted to a CBD-only version of medical marijuana will be on the agenda for some legislatures.
Senator Bernie Sanders announced last year that he would be proposing new legislation to remove cannabis from the list of controlled substances. The bill wouldn’t lower marijuana from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2; it would de-schedule marijuana completely. Such a move would remove marijuana prohibition at the federal level and allow states to decide the issue on their own.
Marijuana businesses may see substantial economic benefits if marijuana is de-scheduled. Entrepreneurs would no longer have to struggle to get a bank loan or a mortgage. Given marijuana’s status as a “dangerous drug,” current regulations cripple the marijuana industry, limiting growth and creating serious safety and security concerns associated with a cash-heavy business model.
Along with the good comes the bad. We can expect to see greed and ambition filter into the marijuana industry. In the words of reform activist Ethan Nadelmann, founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, “We’re entering a new era of marijuana law reform in which the influence of funders and organizations driven primarily by concerns for civil rights and personal liberties, and not by any financial interest in legalizing marijuana, will be superseded by people and corporations driven largely by their pursuit of legal profits.” Hopefully, if de-scheduling happens, post-prohibition laws will prevent this corporate drive for profits from undermining newly secured liberties.
Around the world, we can expect to see activists continuing to fight in order to get marijuana legalized. In South Africa, for example, activists have been preparing for the Trial of the Cannabis Plant, where the laws restricting the cultivation and use of marijuana will be challenged. If successful in getting these laws changed, the activists intend to take the case all the way to the International Court of Human Rights, so that marijuana never has to be put on trial again, anywhere in the world.
Hopefully, more success stories when it comes to medical marijuana will come to light and more research studies will be conducted into the potential of medical marijuana to cure or at least add therapeutic value to patients suffering from a variety of illnesses. Patients may be able to wean themselves off pharmaceutical drugs with the help of marijuana in the years ahead. For example, The Journal of the American Medical Association published a report showing a 25% drop in opioid drug overdose deaths in states where the citizens have access to marijuana.
Hopefully we will continue to see more and more benefits of medical marijuana and people will no longer be punished for recreational use. Indeed, 2016 looks like a promising year for marijuana.
By Claire Rankin