The United States of America: once a nation of narcs! A 1969 Gallup poll found that only 12 percent of the country supported marijuana legalization. By the year 2000 that number had risen to almost fifty percent. And today the majority of Americans are cool; according to a 2019 Gallup poll, 66 percent of the country think weed should be legal.
There are now a total of 18 states (plus Washington DC and Guam) where you can enjoy weed recreationally and another 20 where it is decriminalized or legal medically. But despite an overwhelming number of Americans who are clearly in favor of legalizing Mrs. Mary Jane, the drug has remained a Schedule 1 controlled substance by the federal government, putting it in the same class as heroin and bath salts.
But now, finally, things are starting to change. On Friday the House of Representatives voted to approve a measure that would effectively legalize marijuana at the federal level and end criminal penalties for anyone who grows, sells, or possess the devil’s lettuce.
On top of that, the bill will also put into place procedures for expunging previous convictions from people’s records for any non-violent cannabis offenses. According to Pew Research: Police made about 663,000 arrests for marijuana-related offenses in the 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2018, amounting to 40% of the 1.65 million total drug arrests in the U.S. that year (the most recent for which data is available).
The vote, which was split fairly evenly on party lines, was passed 220-204. Some notable Democrats voted against it: Chris Pappas of New Hampshire and Henry Cueller of Texas. And some notable Republicans came out in favor of the bill: Tom McClintock of California and angry-haircut-in-the-form-of-a-politician, Matt Gaetz of Florida.
The bill, dubbed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, passed the House last year but is currently stalled in the Senate. It would also help expunge the records of people currently incarcerated for marijuana charges in addition to placing a tax on cannabis sales.
And maybe that’s the real reason why the fed’s attitude is shifting. By 2025 the sale of recreational marijuana in the United States is expected to hit more than $25 billion. That’s, ahem, a lot of green to be made from the green.
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