Pot and politics have long been linked and this year is no exception. Reform is sweeping across the U.S. (with attendant impact internationally), and has done so with increased speed since the beginning of the Colorado recreational market on January 1 this year. By the start of the second “rec” market in Washington State in July, things had already moved on a state level politically in several other states driven by legislative reform.
Early in the year, Minnesota legislators created the first American “smokeless” state medical market. Several New England states implemented medical programs and New York finally approved the idea of least of an expanded medical program despite historic foot dragging by former Clinton Administration official, Governor Cuomo. However as the clock ticks down to November, it is the new states who are lining up to vote on the issue that are increasingly critical to driving reform further than this year in the U.S. and beyond. Oregon and Alaska will be voting on recreational use, with Oregon at least widely expected to pass its state measure. Both states have historically had very high reported rates of both usage and acceptance and were two of the earliest states to both decriminalize marijuana and legalize it for medical use in the modern era.
The last initiative in Oregon to proceed with recreational use failed two years ago because the measure allowed for unlimited personal possession. This year, given market start next door in Washington State as well as the overall national temperature on the topic, it is widely expected that the more “conservative” measure (allowing for both home grows and 2 oz of cannabis per person) will pass.
The jury is still out in Alaska for reasons that appear to be more grounded in local politics than the evils of marijuana. Polls have been at an almost dead even split all year. While reform in the District of Columbia has been dramatic this year, progressing from a City Council vote to decriminalize and expand the small medical program to a voter signature ballot initiate that put recreational up for a vote by city residents in November, on the topic of federal facing reform, the hot state to watch this year is Florida. Not only has polled support run consistently in the high 70-80% range since midsummer, but the surrounding local politics this year if not impact on the federal U.S. election come 2016 could have a major impact on pushing major party support forward on further reform.
With federal change in the U.S. on the horizon comes the issue of changing drug reform policy on an international level. With significant national sovereign progress in Israel, Europe and South and Central America this year, it is unlikely that significant international efforts will remain entirely off the table much longer. Particularly on the medical front, the use of marijuana as a drug is challenging national health care policies all over the planet. Australia is also now broaching the topic, driven no doubt by the influence of its Western culture and roots. China has also just discovered the largest outdoor grow facility in its history.
As a result, 2014 has been and will continue to be a watershed year on the reform front and across continents. It appears that the (trade) winds of change are finally blowing in the right direction, if not subtly tinged with the scent of reform and more than occasionally, even a little bit of Mary Jane.
By Marguerite Arnold