Happy Fourth of July from Marijuana.com! Roll it if you’ve got it. While the casualty list has been long and horrific on the road to cannabis legalization, adult-use has taken root in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and both Washington the state and the District of Columbia. But while more Americans can spark up a blunt, bong, or joint to celebrate their newfound freedoms, the United States has a long way to go with regards to marijuana regulations.
Weed wins, sort of …
Marijuana legalization, both medicinal and recreational, has been a lock with the electorate since the mid-’90s. After California’s voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996, the dominoes of prohibition began to fall: in 1998, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington each legalized medicinal cannabis through ballot initiatives. Then, in 2012, the shrewd money bet heavy on adult-use legalization in Colorado and Washington — and won. Since then, 29 states have legalized medicinal cannabis, and nine states plus the District of Columbia have thrown their punitive laws against recreational marijuana to the trash heap of bad policy.
But while many gambled big on reform, only some triumphed. Or so they thought.
Most voters anticipated past social injustices and access issues would be addressed through legalization, but few predicted the glut of legal weed in Oregon, rampant supply shortages in California, and a lingering lack of business opportunities for minorities and women.
Brought about by voter initiatives and progressive legislative efforts, legalization has been embraced by generations of Americans. But while those who voted for reform hoped to enjoy the liberty of fair marijuana regulations and fantasized of celebrating America’s freedom with a relaxing bong load this Fourth of July, many will be disappointed by the reality of the current situation.
To varying degrees, adults 21 and older in nine states are now allowed to legally possess and consume marijuana products in the privacy of their own residence. That is sweet news for most, but as the rules and regulations governing who can participate in the legalized cannabis space varies state by state, one discernable constant looms large: There remains a serious lack of equity within the industry.
Legalization by the numbers – just the facts
Social Justice – From Alaska to Washington D.C., the number of individuals being arrested for a simple cannabis infraction has declined dramatically since legalization was introduced, according to a study by the Drug Policy Alliance, an organization working to decriminalize drugs.
- Alaska – marijuana arrests declined by 93 percent from 2013 to 2015
- Colorado – marijuana arrests dropped 49 percent between 2012 and 2013; marijuana‐related court filings in Colorado declined by 81 percent from 2012 to 2015; also, marijuana possession charges dropped 88 percent during those years
- Oregon – marijuana arrests declined by 96 percent from 2013 to 2016
- Washington state – marijuana related court cases fell by 98 percent from 2011 to 2015.
- Washington, D.C. – marijuana arrests decreased 76 percent from 2013 to 2016, with arrest for possession declining 98.6 percent during that same period
Sensible Regulations – Supply and demand are a cornerstone of economics, and cannabis is no exception. From the marijuana surplus in Oregon to looming shortages in California after a testing mandate kicked in Sunday, July 1, 2018, legalization requires responsible regulations to succeed. As more states roll out reform, it will be interesting to observe how marijuana prices fluctuate.
- The U.S. Cannabis Spot Index by Cannabis Benchmarks fell by 1.8 percent for the week of June 29, 2018, to settle at $1,160 per pound. Cannabis Benchmarks says it arrives at its price by determining the pretax amount paid to cultivators for a “generic strain with homogenized potency of THC and CBD.”
- Wholesale marijuana prices continue to deteriorate in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada.
- California is expected to experience “weed drought” this summer as new rules governing labeling, packaging, testing are now mandated. Retailers were forced to clear out untested inventory by Saturday, June 30, 2018, leading to fire sale prices.
Equal Opportunity – A survey conducted by Marijuana Business Daily between Aug. 9-13, 2017, found that roughly 19 percent of 389 cannabis businesses are minority owned. Broken down by race, we see America’s marijuana industry has a long way to go before it hits racial parity.
- 81 percent were under white ownership
- 6.7 percent identified as “other”
- 5.7 percent identified as being Hispanic/Latino-owned
- 4.3 percent identified as being African-American owned
- 2.4 percent identified as being Asian-American owned
Lead, follow, or get out of the way – legalization is on the rise
Freedom is one of the highest ideals of American democracy. Yet, on a daily basis, it seems that a tyranny of the political minority prevails. Long considered a liability for those seeking elected office, progressive marijuana reform now enjoys overwhelming support from the American public, according to several recent polls. But while today’s politicians no longer live in fear of a political backlash for supporting legalization, many of them still cling to outdated policies, which have resulted in the prosecution and incarceration of millions of otherwise law-abiding Americans.
Fortunately, our founding fathers devised a system to replace those elected officials who refuse to represent the will of their constituents. And for those politicians who’ve incorrectly assumed the voters are the victims of a scandalous hoax by the marijuana-loving left, or suffer from a low IQ, they’ll be held accountable this November by those very same voters.