A NATIONAL  REEFERendum

By Adam Kain

 

If someone tells you that voting doesn’t matter, point out to them the bold experiments taking place in Colorado and Washington. Point to the compassionate California voters that first allowed its citizens to responsibly medicate in the early 1990s. Point to the people of Portland, Maine that made the state’s biggest city the first in the nation to legalize and stop wasting tax dollars pursuing recreational Cannabis users.

The vast majority of moves to legalize medical and recreational Cannabis use have come from the direct action of voters — citizen signature drives to get the referendum, initiative or proposal on the ballot and then a direct vote of the people. When it comes to Cannabis reform, the voice of the people is speaking, and it is loud and clear, despite the clouds of smoke.

 

THE PAST

Cannabis use is at its highest level of acceptance since prohibition began in the 1930s. A majority of Americans agree, for the first time since pollsters began asking the question that Cannabis use should be legal.

Medicinal Cannabis use has its supporters in nearly every state, legal now in 20 states, and D.C. with several others set to follow suit. Adult use is legal in two states, with a legitimate industry formed and enacted to kick off the year in the Mile High state of Colorado. In addition, eight states have enacted laws allowing the growth and utilization of industrial hemp.

Laws are being proposed and enacted at every level of government in our nation, favoring the people’s right to consume responsibly. From a city council in Maine deciding its peace officers will no longer bother with Cannabis users, to congressmen proposing legislation to keep the feds out of state Cannabis laws — 2013 was a good year for Cannabusiness and 2014 looks to be even better.

 

THE PRESENT

The Power of the People came full circle in Colorado and Washington when citizens of those states voted to legalize recreational use in November, 2012, through the use of the referendum. Even this is changing as reform is becoming more mainstream.

The end to Cannabis prohibition in its many forms transcends divisions — party lines, social status, race, or age — more than any other political issue in our country at the moment. Democrats, Tea Party and mainline Republicans, Libertarians, Greenies and Independents alike each have their Cannabis Crusaders.

At the national level, U.S. Reps. Jared Polis (D – Colo.), Earl Blumenauer (D – Ore.),  Tea Party Darling Justin Amash (R – Mich.), and long-time Alaska Rep. Don Young co-sponsored a bill in support of states’ rights when it comes to legalization. Though the bill failed, it showed that the issue can have backers from both parties and from legislators old and new. Even super-conservative Grover Nordquist has come out in support of the states’ rights on this issue.

At a local level, more state bodies are taking up the issue of medical use, including legislatures in Illinois and Kentucky. Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, announced in his State of the State address that he would enact an executive order to allow medicinal use in the state. The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted in January to sell and regulate Cannabis, but the bill is lacking Senate support and the state’s Democratic Governor has also voiced her opposition to the bill.

 

THE FUTURE

Support for adult use seems to be building state-by-state as well, as legislators in New Hampshire and New Mexico have proclaimed that they will introduce legislation in their states to legalize and regulate adult use. The Marijuana Policy Project has had a large hand in organizing and supporting statewide referendums and initiatives. Their efforts also include plans to focus on campaigns to legalize in Oregon, Alaska, and many New England states including Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

When all is said and done, the laws of the land can be formed by the hands of voters. If present Cannabis laws have proven anything, it is that when a group of citizens passionately advocates for change and gets others to support their movements, 80-year-old institutions can be washed away in mere months. While support seems to be on the side of the Cannabis Industry, more can be done by simply letting your voice be heard.

Find a Cannabis candidate that you can get behind and spread their message. Learn about all of the citizen-driven efforts to repeal and regulate, and get involved. Too often, I hear that a single vote cannot change the world. And to that I say, look at where Cannabis laws have come in two decades and what seems to be taking shape in the next decade.

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