By Nation Reporter
Forget Donald Trump (if you can), the unheralded victor of the US general election was Marijuana.
The 8 November poll saw Americans voting not just for President and various political positions but also for several social policy changes in states across the nation. None of these reforms was approved by so many citizens on so many ballots than the legalization of cannabis.
Legalization initiatives for recreational purposes prevailed in four of five states, including the most-populous and wealthy state of California, while medical marijuana was approved in all four states that voted for it.
This brings the total number of medical marijuana-approved states to 28, eight of which have legalized recreational use for adults over 21. It cannot be understated that the country most responsible for criminalizing cannabis almost a century ago now has legalization on the books in the majority of its states.
Despite the excitement among supporters of legalization, policy reformers warn that there are still uncertainties ahead, particularly the great unknown that is President-elect Trump.
“It’s a cognitively dissonant moment for those of us working to end marijuana prohibition and the drug war, as we simultaneously reflect on this wide range of unprecedented victories and face the prospect of the federal government throwing a wrench at them — all while digesting the revelation of how deeply divided and unstable American society has become,” wrote Jag Davies, director of communications strategy for the Drug Policy Alliance.
While President Obama recently observed that federal prohibition of cannabis is “not going to be tenable” after California and other states legalize, Mr Trump has vowed to be a “law and order” President.
During the campaign he pledged respect state marijuana laws, though critics point out that his vice, Mike Pence, as well as likely appointees Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, have consistently opposed cannabis law reform.
Support for drug policy reform is rising among Republicans, however, and all four states that approved medical marijuana also voted Republican. In the last 3 years, Republican-controlled House and Senate committees have passed medical marijuana amendments, while an amendment to end federal prohibition failed by only nine votes last year. It seems that ending the war on cannabis is now a by-partisan issue.
“By shifting away from counterproductive marijuana arrests and focusing instead on public health, states that have legalized marijuana are diminishing many of the worst harms of the war on drugs, while managing to raise substantial new revenues. A recent Drug Policy Alliance report found that Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon have benefited from a dramatic decrease in marijuana arrests and convictions, as well as increased tax revenues, since the adult possession of marijuana became legal. At the same time, these states did not experience increases in youth marijuana use or traffic fatalities,” Mr. Davies explained in a blog post for the Aliance.
“Tuesday’s results also have monumental international ramifications, as momentum grows to end marijuana prohibition in Europe and the Americas. Over the past two years, Jamaica has enacted wide-ranging marijuana decriminalization; Colombia and Puerto Rico issued executive orders legalizing medical marijuana; and medical marijuana initiatives have been debated in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Italy. In 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana on a national level, and Canada’s governing Liberal Party has promised to do the same.”