Tag: legalization

Cannabis Legalization Rises in the South in Virginia! Louisiana Next?

Yesterday, the Virginia Legislature took a huge sledgehammer to the federal war on cannabis by passing legalization and setting its official implementation date as July 1st. The former capital of the Confederacy officially became the 17th state to sweep prohibition into the dustbin of history, with more than 40% of our nation now living in legalized states.

Virginia and Oregon will share legalization anniversary days, with Old Dominion joining the Beaver State just six years after Measure 91 kicked into effect. The Virginia Mercury reported on the details of the law, which allows those of age to legally possess up to an ounce of cannabis:

Adults caught with more than an ounce but less than a pound will face a $25 fine. And adults caught with more than a pound can be charged with a felony punishable by between one and 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

And while sales of the drug are illegal, the legislation permits gifting up to an ounce of the drug to any adult. (The provision explicitly prohibits transactions that have become common in Washington, D.C., where companies sell legal products at high prices that are delivered with what is described as a free gift of marijuana.)

People under the age of 21 caught with the drug face a $25 fine, but would also be required to enter a substance abuse treatment and education program.

Virginia moving forward should help advocates’ political lobbying in other southern states like Louisiana, where a recent poll showed overwhelming and growing support for ending prohibition, as WFAB reported:

A recent poll showed 67% of Louisiana voters are in favor of legalizing cannabis. That’s up from the 54% who favored it last year, which leaves lawmakers to face what they say is obvious.

“I think there’s a sense of inevitability of it too, that people figure this is coming and it’s probably better earlier than later if it’s coming,” said Louisiana Rep. Tanner Magee (R).

And it’s not just one party that’s leaning towards legalization. The poll done by JMC Enterprises showed that the majority of both Democrats and Republicans are in favor of giving legalization the green light. Right now in Louisiana, it’s legal to be prescribed cannabis but only in a concentrated form. Magee said his bill would expand those laws.

Cannabis legalization has passed step by step, state by state very similarly to the medical cannabis movement, with mostly initiative states moving first before states where advocates don’t have the luxury of taking the issue directly to the voters. Most southern states don’t allow the initiative process, so broad bipartisan support is necessary to force the hand of elected officials. Legislators and their constituents seeing that the sky doesn’t fall in Virginia, thousands of new jobs being created and millions of dollars in additional revenue generated, will only speed up the passage legalization laws throughout southern states. Each state then adds more federal representatives that are on the right side of history. Thank you, Virginia, this win will go down as one of the most important victories in our fight for freedom and equality.

U.S. Workers Use Cannabis More, but Opiates Less

Reefer Madness prohibitionists are clinging to a new report detailing how more workers in the United States are using cannabis than ever before to criticize the passage of medical and legalization laws. In actuality, the report has great news contained in it and it demonstrates that most employers don’t need to prohibit cannabis use off the job, a growing trend among American employers.

As The Wall Street Journal reported:

“The percentage of working Americans testing positive for drugs climbed last year, particularly for marijuana, according to a new report, indicating employee drug use was on the rise just as the coronavirus pandemic created new stresses.

“Overall, the proportion of U.S. workers who tested positive for drugs in urine in 2019 rose to 4.5%, the highest level in 16 years, according to Quest Diagnostics Inc., one of the largest drug-testing laboratories in the U.S., which analyzed approximately nine million tests last year of employers.

“But the greatest jump has been in workers testing positive for marijuana, which climbed 11% in 2019 in the general workforce from the year before and 29% since 2015. In that four-year span, the number of states that legalized marijuana for recreational use grew to 11 from four, plus the District of Columbia.”

It’s positive news that the use of some dangerously fatal drugs has actually decreased the last few years. The use of more addictive and potentially fatal narcotics such as opiates fell 19 percent in 2019 from the year before and 49 percent since 2015. Usage rates for heroin dropped by a third from 2018 and halved since its peak in 2015. As NPR reported, opiate use has decreased in states that have legalized medicinal cannabis.

Also, fewer employers are actually testing for cannabis. Across the nation, 3% fewer employers are checking for cannabis while that number rose to 6% in states that have fully legalized cannabis. With drug tests recognizing inactive metabolites, instead of whether someone is actually impaired, it’s time that more employers stop this discriminatory practice, especially in non-safety-sensitive jobs. It’s great that we have stopped arresting and prosecuting cannabis in legal states, but it is important that employment fairness laws get enacted as well.

We Need a Medical Cannabis Patients Bill of Rights

It is easy to see that our nation is moving towards a more sane cannabis policy, but it is still moving too slowly for millions of people. Yes, cannabis is legal for all adults in several states and a majority now allow medical, these laws primarily only protect law-abiding citizens from criminal punishment. Too many folks are still experiencing discrimination in the workplace or face the possibility of losing custody of the children because laws ending criminal penalties aren’t fully protecting those that utilize cannabis. Most importantly, we need to protect patients that use cannabis medicinally.

A medical cannabis patients bill of rights has been filed in Florida, and every state needs to adopt similar legislation, albeit we need even more protections. The Orlando Weekly reports:

The purpose of the legislation is to protect employees and job applicants from punishment for using medical marijuana, unless their job includes safety-sensitive job duties.

“We must do our part to ensure that their use of safe and effective medicine will not impede their right to work,” Berman stated in a press release regarding the Medical Marijuana Employee Protection Act.

The measures would require the employer to provide written notice within five days of a positive test result to give employees and job applicants a chance to explain their results. According to Berman, employers would still be able to enforce a zero-tolerance, drug-free workplace, as the legislation allows for termination of employees whose performance and safety are affected by the drug.

In addition to workplace issues, medical cannabis patients need protections for housing, child custody, and medical decisions. We have made great strides in ending the persecution, prosecution, and stigmatization of the cannabis community recently, but we still have a lot of work to do as fighting for liberty and equality doesn’t stop when states legalize the use of cannabis.

Feature photo credit: Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance