There is good news and bad news on the marijuana front.
First the bad news.
A bill (H.R.3884) to decriminalize marijuana that “removes marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and eliminates criminal penalties for an individual who manufactures, distributes, or possesses marijuana” has been languishing in the U.S. House of Representatives for over a year.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019 also:
- replaces statutory references to marijuana and marihuana with cannabis, Cannabis Is Medicine: ... Best Price: $16.41 Buy New $16.47 (as of 05:15 EST - Details)
- requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to regularly publish demographic data on cannabis business owners and employees,
- establishes a trust fund to support various programs and services for individuals and businesses in communities impacted by the war on drugs,
- imposes a 5% tax on cannabis products and requires revenues to be deposited into the trust fund,
- makes Small Business Administration loans and services available to entities that are cannabis-related legitimate businesses or service providers,
- prohibits the denial of federal public benefits to a person on the basis of certain cannabis-related conduct or convictions,
- prohibits the denial of benefits and protections under immigration laws on the basis of a cannabis-related event (e.g., conduct or a conviction), and
- establishes a process to expunge convictions and conduct sentencing review hearings related to federal cannabis offenses.
Although House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said that the bill would be voted on in September, here it is election day in November and still the bill languishes.
And now the good news.
There are ballot measures relating to marijuana that people in five states will be voting on today. Two states (Mississippi & South Dakota) are voting on whether to permit medical marijuana; four states (Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, & South Dakota) are voting on the legalization of recreational marijuana. (Yes, South Dakota is voting on both at the same time.)
Arizona Proposition 207 would “legalize the possession and use of marijuana for persons who are at least 21 years old, enact a tax on marijuana sales, and require the state Department of Health and Human Services to develop rules to regulate marijuana businesses.”
Voting for Initiative 65 supports approving the medical marijuana amendment as provided by Initiative 65, which would allow medical marijuana treatment for more than 20 specified qualifying conditions, allow individuals to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana at one time, and tax marijuana sales at the current state sales tax rate of 7%.
Voting for Alternative 65A supports approving the legislature’s alternative medical marijuana amendment, which would restrict smoking marijuana to terminally ill patients; require pharmaceutical-grade marijuana products and treatment oversight by licensed physicians, nurses, and pharmacists; and leave tax rates, possession limits, and certain other details to be set by the legislature.
Montana CI-118 would amend “the Montana Constitution to allow for the legislature or a citizen initiative to establish a minimum legal age for the possession, use, and purchase of marijuana, similar to the regulation of alcohol in the state constitution.”
Montana I-190 would legalize “the possession and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21,” impose “a 20% tax on marijuana sales,” require “the Department of Revenue to develop rules to regulate marijuana businesses,” and allow “for the resentencing or expungement of marijuana-related crimes.”
New Jersey Public Question 1 would “legalize the possession and use of marijuana for persons age 21 and older and legalize the cultivation, processing, and sale of retail marijuana.”
South Dakota Constitutional Amendment A would “legalize the recreational use of marijuana and require the South Dakota State Legislature to pass laws providing for the use of medical marijuana and the sale of hemp by April 1, 2022.”
South Dakota Initiated Measure 26 would establish “a medical marijuana program in South Dakota for individuals with a debilitating medical condition.” The Cannabis Health In... Best Price: $11.95 Buy New $19.12 (as of 05:15 EST - Details)
Now, I would be the first to acknowledge that none of these ballot measures are perfect, ideal, or principled. If marijuana is legalized, then no adult should have to wait until he is twenty-one to use it. The use of medical marijuana should not be limited to just serious or specified medical conditions. Marijuana sales should not be taxed. Marijuana should not be regulated like alcohol. Marijuana businesses should not be regulated. There should be no cultivation or possession limits on marijuana. Marijuana should not have to be prescribed by licensed healthcare professionals. Marijuana should not be limited to just medical use.
But I am also cognizant of the fact that the government war on marijuana—at the federal and state levels—is a great evil. Some marijuana freedom is better than no marijuana freedom. Legal medical marijuana with illegal recreational marijuana is better than illegal medical and illegal recreational marijuana. Legal medical marijuana with regulations and restrictions is better than illegal medical marijuana. Legal recreational marijuana with taxation and regulation is better than illegal recreational marijuana. No state government is going to simply institute marijuana freedom: that would be against its nature—its desire to manage behavior, restrict freedom, regulate commercial activity, and seize the first fruits of the labor of its citizens.
Thirty-three states have already legalized the medical use of marijuana. Eleven states have already legalized the recreational use of marijuana. The full or partial decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of marijuana has already occurred in many states and localities. If I voted, and if I lived in the state of Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, or South Dakota, I wouldn’t waste my vote on Trump or Biden—but I would cast my vote for more marijuana freedom.