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State By State, the War on Pot Is Ending

| June 20, 2019

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The greening of America. (Shutterstock)

By Paul Armentano

Judging by its first six months, 2019 has been a banner year for marijuana policy reform.

Most notably, lawmakers in Illinois legalized the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to adults. The state is the 11th to legalize the use of marijuana by those over the age of 21, and it’s the first to pass such a measure with a statehouse vote (rather than a public initiative).


“Illinois is going to have the most equity-centric law in the nation,” Governor J.B. Pritzker announced. “For the many individuals and families whose lives have been changed — indeed hurt — because the nation’s war on drugs discriminated against people of color, this day belongs to you.”

Illinois is far from alone. Several other states have also approved measures in recent weeks to significantly reduce marijuana penalties.

In New Mexico, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation reducing first-time penalties for low-level possession from a criminal misdemeanor — punishable by up to 15 days in jail — to a “penalty assessment,” punishable by a $50 fine. Similar decriminalization legislation in Hawaii awaits Governor David Ige’s signature.

In North Dakota, lawmakers reduced penalties involving the possession of both cannabis and cannabis paraphernalia from a criminal misdemeanor to an infraction. In Colorado, they reduced felony marijuana penalties to misdemeanors.

A growing number of states are also moving to vacate criminal convictions related to prior marijuana offenses. Lawmakers in Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington all enacted legislation this spring expediting the expungement process for those seeking to vacate their criminal records.

other-words“This is a small step, but one that moves us in the direction of correcting injustices that disproportionately affected communities of color,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee explained. “A successful pardon of a marijuana possession conviction can assist with barriers to housing, employment, and education.”

Legislators are also taking steps to halt employment discrimination against those who consume marijuana off the job.

In Nevada, a new law prohibits certain employers from refusing to hire workers solely because they tested positive for cannabis on a pre-employment drug screen. A similar law in New York City bars pre-employment drug testing for people seeking non-safety sensitive positions. City officials similarly prohibited marijuana testing as a condition of probation.

Officials are also expanding upon existing medical cannabis access programs, which now operate in the majority of U.S. states.

In New Jersey, the Murphy administration enacted regulatory changes providing up to 108 additional cannabis manufacturers and providers to serve the state’s nearly 50,000 registered patients. Other states — such as Colorado, Connecticut, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, and West Virginia — enacted new measures expanding the pool of patients eligible to receive medical cannabis therapy.

In Georgia, lawmakers passed legislation to allow for the state-sponsored production and distribution of low-THC varieties of cannabis, while Texas lawmakers moved to expand participation in a similar statewide program. Several states, such as Washington and Virginia, codified legislation permitting student patients to legally possess and consume medical cannabis products while on school grounds.

In Alaska, regulators finalized rules in March making the state the first in the country to permit on-site cannabis consumption at licensed facilities. Colorado lawmakers passed similar legislation in May, and Massachusetts regulators have also advanced a pilot program licensing social use facilities. Colorado lawmakers also enacted legislation establishing rules for the home delivery of retail cannabis products.

This unprecedented wave of legislative activity at the state level is yet further evidence that public consensus on cannabis legalization has undergone a seismic shift. Rather than being viewed as a political liability, lawmakers across the country are now embracing cannabis policy reform as a political opportunity — and finally taking steps to end the criminalization and stigmatization of those who use the plant responsibly.

Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director of NORML — the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws — and co-author of the book, “Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?”

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22 Responses for “State By State, the War on Pot Is Ending”

  1. Dave says:

    Yet here in Flagler county there are people arrested almost everyday for simple marijuana possession and sales. So sad and repressive. It’s the children that are being effected negatively by these old world policies. Legalize it!

  2. MRC says:

    It is about time for Florida to follow suit and fully legalize Marijuana, a natural plant with many legitimate medical and other uses. With 70% of voters approving Medical Marijuana, it is fully apparent that voters would approve of such a measure. However the majority of Florida legislators and police departments resist. Why? They are operating under the assumption that it would lead to the “moral decay” of our society and would increase crime. Towns have used that excuse to refuse to allow Medical Marijuana dispensaries. They toted that they would lead to all this crime. Ok, really? Has there been “all this crime” around the one dispensary in Palm Coast? The answer is NO. There have been ZERO crimes reported that I am aware of. So one has to examine the real reason law enforcement resists legalization. The answer is the all mighty dollar. Law enforcement currently has the ability to confiscate all monies related to arrests from Marijuana dealings, cars, goods, etc. Where do you think all that money goes? Into their coffers. If Marijuana was legalized, they would lose that source of income. Of course they don’t want it legalized. And the legislators? They are operating under the mistaken, ignorant, and archaic notions aka “reefer madness” mentality. They are also under the mistaken notion that they might not get elected if they voted for legalization. How wrong they are! Unfortunately the voters will once again have to put forth a constitutional ballot initiative to legalize. That is no doubt that the legislature is trying to prevent such initiatives from appearing on the ballot. These ignorant legislators are not forward thinking at all. Why not legalize? Think of all the money the state would generate? It is staggering! Think of all the billions of dollars the state could rake in. Think of all the state projects and improvements why could make! How stupid can you get? Time to wake up and move forward. Legalizing will not kill us. It will only improve not only the lives of the majority of our citizens but it could generate a huge source of income for the state economy. It is time to legalize, not only at the state level but at the federal level. The majority of the voters support legalization. Vote wisely.

  3. MR G says:

    ITS ABOUT TIME & THIS ISNT FOR PEOPLE OF “COLOR” ITS FOR EVERYONE.. SO TIRED OF THE FALSE NARRATIVES PUT ON “WE THE PEOPLE”…. JUST LEGALIZE IT…..

  4. gmath55 says:

    Nothing wrong with marijuana until they drive high. Is Driving While High Dangerous? Fatal Car Accidents Involving Marijuana Triple Over 10 Years.
    https://www.ibtimes.com/driving-while-high-dangerous-fatal-car-accidents-involving-marijuana-triple-over-10-years-1553319

    Driving while high: Marijuana users twice as likely to crash, AAA study finds.
    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/driving-while-high-marijuana-users-twice-as-likely-to-crash-aaa-study-finds/ar-AADb2z4

  5. Bill McGuire says:

    If marijuana is “medicine”, why doesn’t the FDA certify it as such where it can be purchased at my local Walgreens with a doctor’s prescription? Why does it require a law to require a law to allow it it to be purchased ?

  6. Agkistrodon says:

    LEGALIZE IT ALREADY. You can make whiskey with Corn, Should we make growing corn illegal? It is a plant that requires NO refinement for use. It is, in it’s natural state a valuable medicinal plant that has been utilized by humans for centuries. On aside note, if more people grew some ganja, there would be less co2 in the air and more 02……….

  7. hawkeye says:

    my wife has for years suffered from IBS and anxiety,which I believe go hand in hand,since she has been on medical marijuana,(she takes a liquid type of substance), she no longer has to take man made horrible drugs. Therefore we are 100% in favor of legal marijuana.

  8. Francesca says:

    Driving while high will still be a crime just like driving drunk. But alcohol is legal.
    I would like marijuana for my anxiety.. but to do so I’d have to go a drug dealer.. but I can easily get cigarettes no problem. So many DANGEROUS products are legal but marijuana is a crime…

  9. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    GOD manufactured marijuana – MAN manufactures booze.’
    No one has ever OD on pot – booze has destroyed many lives on the road – many lives with fatal liver diseases
    Pot has never been documented to cause any fatal disease.
    Alcohol can be addictive
    Pot is not addictive – no one has withdrawal systems or negative physical reactions if they suddenly stop using it unlike hard liquor which can require hospitalization for withdrawal.

    Florida is an embarrassment in my opinion for it’s ignorance, blindness and prejudice in favor of the debilitating man made hard liquor as well as stupidity for throwing away potential tax and helping people lead healthier and happier lives. Liquor can be lethal. Pot cannot. Our legislators who refuse to use common sense need a wake up call or be thrown out of office.

    Most of our country, ( and others), have woken up to reality. Why is Floriduh always last?

  10. hawkeye says:

    Francesca, you can go to your regular MD ,tell him or her about your anxiety, they will send you to another DR who will write you a scrip for medical marijuana ,then just go to trulieve and pick out whatever you need.As I said in my last post, since my wife has been on the medical marijuana, she is so much better and doesnt have to take horrible man made drugs.I hope it works out for you.

  11. richiesanto says:

    Looks like everyone is on the same page: marijuana has many uses and it is about time that our country changes the law so sale and possession are no longer a federal crime. You will NEVER see the amount of lives lost from marijuana rival lives lost from alcohol.

  12. Capt Budman says:

    Yep, let’s turn Florida into a ” STONER STATE “. Let’s make it a sanctuary city too. Hell, Let’s elect All democrats for judges and county office. Yea, that will make Florida almost as wonderful as California.
    (SARC)

  13. capt says:

    70% of voters approving Medical Marijuana. But that’s not recreational .

    Hey Jane “Florida is an embarrassment in my opinion for it’s ignorance, blindness and prejudice”, but you live here so I guess you are talking about all residents in general. And you say Pot can’t be lethal. Tell that to the family in Fremont Cal last year May 2018. Man was high on weed when he was driving recklessly and at high speeds when the crash occurred. Killed 3 including 2 kids. Not lethal, its very lethal when abused,..

    Get some laws established, when and where weed can be used. I don’t have any problem smoking in the house, but driving . Just like booze, don’t smoke weed and drive.

  14. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    Yes Capt…. No one should drive drunk or stoned. Does everyone get drunk when they drink? NO! And as far as someone stoned on pot driving at high speeds sorry he had to be on coke or something else…

    Pot slows you down and too much will put you to sleep unlike too much booze. Sorry Capt. I agree with everything you say except a driver speeding on pot, It doesn’t happen

  15. gmath55 says:

    @ Jane Gentile-Youd – Not addictive? no one has withdrawal systems or negative physical reactions?

    Marijuana Withdrawal Timeline http://marijuanarehab.com/marijuana-addiction/marijuana-withdrawal/marijuana-withdrawal-timeline/

    What Are the Different Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms? https://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-the-different-marijuana-withdrawal-symptoms.htm

    I don’t really know since I don’t smoke or take medical marijuana. Just going by what I read. Maybe somebody can elaborate.

  16. Paul C Pritchard says:

    Thanks for this insightful article.

  17. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    gmath55: I sure can elaborate –

    The first website you list does not have a live chat person available nor does the phone help line answer – or even ask to leave a message.
    The second website – under ‘withdrawal systems’ link lists everything BUT MARIJUANA – lists prescription drugs, caffeine, but not pot,

    A mere click of the mouse and a sharp tongue aren’t anything to elaborate upon… Do yourself a favor, read details first – on any issue – before being so harsh….. thanks in advance for being a good sport

  18. gmath55 says:

    Why are all these people saying they have withdrawals from smoking pot?
    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Are+there+withdrawal+symptoms+from+marijuana

    Here is a video from UCLA Health for those who have comprehension problems. See and hear.

  19. Dave says:

    For anyone questioning weather Marijuana is physically addictive the answer is NO. You will not have withdrawal symptoms from stopping marijuana. Nothing more than some irritability and night sweats in the 1st 24 hours basically way less symptoms than coming off something like sugar or caffeine.
    Until every American citizen can grow their own marijuana for themselves we will not stop. This “fake legalization going on across the country is ripping a medicinal plant from the people who are in need and handing it over to the wealthy to profit off of.

  20. Ben Dover says:

    The private prisons make to much money on people convicted of possession , the courts , the bail the probation all money, even the Opioid Crisis is manufactured to a degree , they are suing legitimate drug manufacturers when 99% of the people dying are dying from Heroin laced with Fentanyl, and look a like street pills laced with it , but they are blowing the numbers out of proportion in 2018 world wide 240.000 died from Opioid abuse , sounds like a lot huh? well also in 2018 world wide 3.3 Million people died from Alcohol abuse , tat is over 13 times as many deaths , where is the outrage over these deaths , why are they not suing the people that manufacture booze? also in 2018 world wide 480.000 died from Tobacco use that is twice as many as Opioid`s, so like I said it`s a manufactured crisis , and they are never going to get a handle on the real problem if they keep going after the wrong people , but guess they can`t sue China or the Streets, these drugs enter our country via US postal service , UPS , Fed Ex and Shipping Containers , they are not coming in through our southern border, and if any are a wall will not help , there are already hundreds of sophisticated tunnels under existing walls and fencing , the Cartel dug a 3 mile tunnel under a maximum security prison so precise it came up into the exact shower El Chapo used , the tunnel had a rail system with a motor cycle hooked up to the track that allowed El Chapo to fly 60 mph away from that prison under ground , undetected , so this ridiculous wall Dump wants to build is useless in stopping drugs or people from entering our country.

  21. Agkistrodon says:

    Too bad the Florida law for medicinal cannabis is ALL ABOUT MONEY. Please explain, why I have to pay someone else to provide what I can grow EASILY myself. Then there is the whole Second amendment part. If you get a Medical card, you pretty much lose your right to carry. But you can drink, or be on a myriad of pharma drugs and carry ten weapons, SAD.

  22. mark101 says:

    @Agkistrodon all about money. So very true You have you’re
    Doctor’ visit(s)
    Department of Health fees
    Dispensary expenses
    Renewal fee’s etc..

    https://thcphysicians.com/cost-of-medical-marijuana/
    In summary of that article I linked to: So here’s a grand rundown of all the expenses we discussed:

    Initial physician visit for the recommendation: $250+
    FL Registration Fee: $75
    Renewal Fee: $75
    First treatment: $20 to $300+
    Delivery fee: $25
    Follow-up visit: $80 to $200+
    Total Cost for the First Year: $250 to $575+

    Yep all about the money. In the United States, a gram of marijuana costs $20 on average on the street. Of course you really don’t have a clue , who grew it, ( unless you grew it yourself) what pesticides were used on the plant, maybe some fertilizer, the processing and its quality.

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