Cannabis Legalization

Samuel Ogali, Courier Staff

Cannabis has been a part of everyday society for years, and now with the amount of information in regard to the benefits it has to medical alternatives and mental health treatments, the implementation of cannabis throughout the U.S. and even globally in countries, such as Canada and South Africa, is allowing more people to have access to it without strict penalization. 

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case 20 to 30 years ago when cannabis was strictly seen as a gateway drug and many cannabis users were merely characterized  as “dopes” or “potheads.” Even though we live in a time where cannabis has become much more acceptable, it’s implementation in certain states has been anything but perfect; disregarding the individual rights and the unfortunate criminal prosecutions of cannabis users in the past, especially in the disproportionate case of minorities. The Cannabis Policy Now Podcast from the Marijuana Policy Project outlined the efforts various states are taking to implement cannabis. 

The episode of the Cannabis Policy Now podcast commiserated Black History Month by discussing the progress that has taken place within cannabis legalization. The hosts [Violet Cavendish and Matt Simon] emphasized this by discussing the recent progress in states, such as Illinois and Virginia. The hosts, who also represent the Mauajna Policy Project which is an advocacy group aimed at pushing cannabis reform, praised Illinois for its efforts to include social equity provisions, as opposed to other states who have limited that approach. Black people, who have disproportionately been affected because of strict cannabis laws, are now given fair treatment in Illinois regarding job opportunities in the industry, as well as cultivation and enacting policies that correct the wrongs due to strict enforcement.

 On the other hand, Virginia has been in the legislative process for months now between both legislative chambers crafting a comprehensive cannabis bill. The benefits of this bill is the fact that it addresses social justice reform and social equity for minorities disproportionately affected by strict laws in the past. The only downside is the full legalization of cannabis wouldn’t go into effect until 2024; the hosts have urged Governor Ralph Northam to amend the bill viewing it as more people being harmed due to strict laws already in place without full implementation.  

Furthermore, due to ballot intivies, recreational or medical majuarna has won approval in states such as Arizona, New Jersey and South Dakota. The cannabis debate throughout this country has led to sweeping reform throughout the years, even though there are still lawmakers who are hard line against cannabis legalization. If this trend continues, a decade from now a significant number of states could have legal recreational cannabis. Along with the necessary reforms to address policies that have disproportionately affected minorities as a result.