In 2014, although just two states had made moves toward legalized recreational marijuana, USA Today declared that legalization of cannabis was inevitable. At the time, a stunning 75% of poll respondents stated they thought legalization of the sale and use of recreational marijuana was inevitable.
Now, three years later, the number of states with legalized recreational marijuana has jumped to eight plus Washington D.C. In regards to medical marijuana, all but four states have passed laws relating to the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that despite the deep social and political divides that exist in America, marijuana legalization is one of the handful of issues that enjoys bipartisan support—or at least acceptance.
America’s relationship with marijuana is complicated at best. From the 1600s until the 1890s, the production of hemp was encouraged. The government even required it for the production of rope, sails, and clothing. Domestic production of hemp flourished until well after the Civil War, with Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland all allowing hemp to be exchanged as legal tender.
During the 19th century, marijuana became a popular ingredient for medicinal products and was sold openly in pharmacies and apothecary shops. It wasn’t until after the Mexican Revolution of 1910, when Mexican immigrants fled north to the United States, that American culture was introduced to the recreational use of cannabis, which they called “marijuana.”
Inevitably, the use of recreational marijuana became closely associated with Mexican immigrants. It didn’t take long for the American public to develop prejudicial fears and biases about marijuana use. These fears were in large part inspired by terrifying news stories published by newspaper and timber magnate, William Randolph Hearst.
Hearst, along with Director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger, drew upon social stereotypes and prejudices to stigmatize cannabis and cannabis consumers. The smear campaign that followed is notorious even today, with modern references to ‘Reefer Madness’ still being made in both popular culture and cannabis culture alike.
From the 1930s through the 1970s, the country was in the throes of marijuana prohibition, although the counterculture movement of the 1960s showed there was a part of the American population that embraced marijuana consumption. Nevertheless, the federal stance on marijuana failed to substantially change. In fact, its approach became harsher during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr.
America has been waging one drug war or another for more than 40 years. A staple of conservative governance, the war on drugs has been a tool for deepening systemic inequity and the destruction of countless lives and communities.
Although the disastrous consequences of the war on drugs are important to acknowledge and discuss, they are too numerous to list here. What is important to know is that the deleterious impact of drug war policy is part of what has driven modern efforts to decriminalize marijuana.
While the end of marijuana prohibition hasn’t happened on a federal level yet, it’s clear the tide has quickly turned in marijuana’s favor. When the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Legislation was founded, only 12% of the American public supported the legalization of marijuana.
Now, legalized cannabis consumption has garnered support from everyone from physicians to attorneys and even public servants. In fact, according to one June 2017 poll, more than 70% of Americans believe marijuana consumption is less dangerous than tobacco or alcohol consumption.
As the efforts to end the federal prohibition of marijuana continue, make sure you’re getting the relief you need safely and legally. There’s no need to wait for July 1, learn how you can become a patient today!