Right now, more than half of the United States supports cannabis legalization. In a time and place where this plant was once so demonized and policed, it’s hard to imagine the country having a complete change of heart, but it appears as though it has.
Now, almost the whole country is on the edge of its seats, just waiting to see what is next for cannabis in the US. While a bit uncertain, these astounding numbers point towards a bright, flourishing future that’s more than worth discussing.
Where Legalization Currently Stands
Before this year’s election, the United States had 21 states who had legalized cannabis medicinally and another 11 who had legalized it recreationally. Only just ten years ago, the country had less than 20 states who had legalized medical marijuana, and recreational still wasn’t even a thought until two years later.
But, despite the US’ slow start, the country seems to be progressing steadily now. Each year, medical or recreational marijuana laws change, with more and more states breaking from the status quo.
This year alone, the US saw the passing of recreational cannabis use in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. South Dakota was especially important, as it became the first state in American history to legalize both medicinal and recreational cannabis at the same time. Typically, states will go through the slow process of legalizing medicinal cannabis and then transferring over to recreational cannabis after a few years of establishment. South Dakota, however, sped up the process significantly, making the landmark decision to legalize both.
In 2020, Mississippi also joined the list of medicinally legal states, bringing the total amount of legalized states--whether medically or recreationally--to 35 states total. After this year’s election, it became clear that cannabis legalization is still very much on the forefront of many people’s minds, and it’s something that most Americans are in favor of.
However, we’re still quite far from seeing the federal legalization of cannabis, unfortunately. Along with these states passing marijuana laws, the House also recently passed the first round of the MORE Act, or the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019. This revolutionary bill proposes the federal decriminalization--not legalization--of cannabis. While it passed through the House, the real problem is going to be getting it through the Senate.
But, despite the bipartisan debate happening in the US Government about cannabis, it’s clear which side the American people stand on.
The Overwhelming Support
According to a Gallup poll, 68% of Americans are now in favor of cannabis legalization. This question was first posed all the way back in 1969 and has been asked each year since. 2020 has brought the highest positive response rate in history, showing that people are really changing their minds about the legal, adult-use consumption of cannabis.
While you would expect those in favor of cannabis legalization to be around the ages of 21-30, this poll also demonstrated that the majority of Americans who are 65 and older are, too, in support of legalization. Out of all the demographics, this would be the one most likely to be against marijuana legalization, however, it’s obvious that this is not the case.
This figure, in particular, is impressive because those who are 65 and older grew up in a time where cannabis was regarded completely differently than it is today. Back then, marijuana was demonized so harshly, with false allegations made up against the substance to scare people from smoking it. For decades, this was the vernacular that surrounded cannabis. So, to see such overwhelming support from such an unlikely demographic is simply incredible for the cannabis industry.
Of course, not every demographic was in support of cannabis legalization this year. Those who consider themselves to be conservative, as well as regular church-goers, had the majority vote of being against cannabis legalization. Republicans, as well, showed that over 50% opposed this action, too.
The Future of Cannabis Legalization in the US
So, what exactly does all of this mean for the future of cannabis legalization in the US? Clearly, it isn’t going to be forgotten about any time soon. With every state still actively amending and deciding upon specific marijuana laws, and bills like the MORE Act and CARE Act being discussed throughout the House and Senate, it’s obvious that cannabis laws are continuing to stay at the forefront of politics.
The overwhelming support that the American people have for legalizing cannabis in some form is downright promising. Now that support is with the majority, at almost 70% in favor, it’s clear that this kind of support isn’t going to go down without a fight. Most of those in the US are hoping for some change when it comes to these antiquated, deeply racist cannabis criminalization measures, and we aren’t going to slow down until we see steps being made. While decriminalization, like the MORE Act proposes, is a huge leap, it will be quite a struggle for the country to get there.
But, just because it will be a challenge doesn’t mean we won’t see progress. The numbers here are what truly demonstrates the needs of the American people in terms of legalized cannabis and it’s time to start listening.
At the end of the day, where cannabis is now is still miles ahead of where it used to be. While it has taken many years to get where we’re at, and though we still have a long way to go, the future is bright. The connotations behind this green plant are finally changing and people of all (legal) ages are finding relief in one way or another. As this continues, so will the fight for legalization.
Now, the only thing left to do is wait. The American people have to be patient in terms of legalization, as it seems to be heading towards us at a snail’s pace. Still, these numbers show that, with cannabis legalization support at an all-time high, change is on the horizon.