Cannabis legalization is on a great winning streak. Over 43% of our nation now lives in a state that has ended prohibition and there has never been a better time to be a drug policy law reformer. The success that the cannabis community has had politically and culturally is nothing short of remarkable. I had an activist yesterday tell me that they are amazed that I have been able to stay sane after two decades in this fight, let alone those that have two decades on me. I countered that I celebrate all of our victories along the way and while it can be frustrating, I take solace in knowing that we have come so far since 1996, the year when California became the first state to legalize medicinal cannabis. All of our success has finally moved into the halls of Congress and ending Uncle Sam’s Reefer Madness seems inevitable and we’re gonna see more articles like Vox’s declaring that “Marijuana legalization has won” stating:
At this point, the question of nationwide marijuana legalization is more a matter of when, not if. At least two-thirds of the American public support the change, based on various public opinion surveys in recent years. Of the 15 states where marijuana legalization has been on the ballot since 2012, it was approved in 13 — including Republican-dominated Alaska, Montana, and South Dakota (although South Dakota’s measure is currently held up in the courts). In the 2020 election, the legalization initiative in swing state Arizona got nearly 300,000 more votes than either Joe Biden or Donald Trump.
Legalization has also created a big new industry in very populous states, including California and (soon) New York, and that industry is going to push to continue expanding. One of the US’s neighbors, Canada, has already legalized pot, and the other, Mexico, is likely to legalize it soon, creating an international market that would love to tap into US consumers.
The walls are closing in on this issue for legalization opponents — and quickly.
Of course, what German Lopez writes in Vox is true, but there is a big “but” to consider. Legalization has won, BUT there is still much work to be done. Legalization is inevitable, BUT only because advocates have laid the foundation for decades and are continuing to do the hard work of winning elections, either by taking the case directly to the voters or winning over legislators and governors. The cannabis community has won the cultural battle because we have been right all along, just as those pioneering activists like Oregon’s Elvy Musikka and those no longer with us, like Jack Herer and Dennis Peron, were right about the ills of prohibition all along. However, we can’t let up.
Many old-school activists thought that ending the war on cannabis was inevitable during the 1970s when states first started decriminalizing personal amounts, but then there was the “Just Say No” expansion of the Drug War during the 1980s and into the 90s. This isn’t the time to spike the football, count all of our chickens, or insert-phrase-that-means-celebrate-prematurely, just yet. We still need to pass the SAFE Banking Act, free prisoners, expunge criminal records, implement equitable regulations, AND end prohibition all across the land. Step by step, state by state, we’re making it happen, but let’s continue to the work and not let the headlines get to our heads just yet.