As I write this post the winner of the 2020 Presidential election is still to be determined. But the war on drugs was one clear loser on Election Day. Voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota approved ballot propositions legalizing recreational marijuana possession and sales. Voters also legalized marijuana for medicinal use in Mississippi and through a separate proposition in South Dakota.
Oregon voters struck an even greater blow against the drug war when they approved Measure 110, which decriminalizes possession of all drugs within the state’s borders. I wrote about Oregon’s drug decriminalization measure here.
This now makes a total of 35 states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, and 15 states plus the District of Columbia that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
It is time for the Drug Enforcement Administration to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act of 1972, where marijuana is classified along with such drugs as diacetyl‐morphine (heroin), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and MDMA (“ecstasy”) as having “no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.”
President Donald Trump’ position on federal legalization or decriminalization of marijuana has been unclear and inconsistent. And former Vice President Joe Biden is on record as opposing legalization, believing it to be a “gateway” to the use of harder and more dangerous drugs. But with states as diverse as Arizona, South Dakota, New Jersey, and Mississippi now embracing legalization, the dam may be about to burst.
In September the House of Representatives postponed a vote, until after the election, on the MORE (Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement) Act. Unfortunately, the bill doesn’t legalize marijuana federally. But it would remove marijuana from Schedule I, expunge prior criminal convictions related to marijuana, and provide access to capital for small marijuana businesses. It enjoys bipartisan support in the House. Once the dust from this election settles, perhaps the new additions to the list of states with legalized marijuana will re‐energize the movement in Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition. Hopefully, when it gets to his desk, the President, whoever he may be, will sign it into law.
The marijuana legalization movement began with a few states legalizing the plant for medicinal use. Momentum gradually built to the point where federal legalization is now a realistic possibility. Perhaps one day historians will say the movement to end America’s longest war—the cruel and futile war on drugs—began with the decriminalization of all drugs in the state of Oregon.