Legal marijuana had lost much of its novelty by the time 2014 rolled around. But the year turned out to be huge for cannabis and the industry that sells it. Two more states legalized, and Congress took its first baby steps toward federal cannabis reform.
If we’ve learned anything about the movement to end prohibition, it’s that the avalanche is now in full force. New legal and political developments will continue to come at a rapid clip as the nation adapts to the reality that pot is here to stay.
So here’s hoping 2015 proves to be the biggest year yet for marijuana reform. In that spirit, here are our top wishes for the momentous year to come.
California Finally Regulates MMJ
It isn’t really that hordes of “patients” are abusing California’s medical marijuana system as a means to get recreational pot. A recent study by state medical authorities determined there’s little abuse in the system.
The problem has more to do with the federal government. The Department of Justice has said repeatedly that it’s willing to let states legalize as long as they enforce certain federal drug policies.
For the most part, the feds have stuck to those guidelines. But not in California, where several U.S. attorneys have made careers out of prosecuting MMJ providers. The feds’ biggest complaint: There are no state-level rules regarding medical weed. Everything is left to local officials, and that threatens the federal guidelines.
California is ripe for legalization of recreational cannabis, but the lack of medical regulation could stand in the way. So let’s hope the nation’s most populous state can “get its regulatory act together,” as one federal official put it. At the same time, let’s hope Californians don’t make it harder for patients to get the medicine they need.
Rhode Island Lights Up (Again)
Rhode Island cannabis advocates have two big facts in their favor: The state’s legislature is one of the friendliest in the country when it comes to weed, and Rhode Islanders smoke more dope than anyone else in the country – maybe more than anyone on the planet.
If state lawmakers do legalize pot in 2015, as some believe they will, Rhode Island would become the first state to legalize by way of legislation rather than public ballot initiative. It would also be the first state to legalize on the East Coast.
No matter what happens, weed will definitely be legal in more places by the end of 2016. That year will feature an open presidential election, and the young voters who favor legalization are more likely to turn out in presidential years than otherwise.
But it would be great to see a pot-friendly state like Rhode Island bring reform to the East even sooner. The race is on: It’s either going to be Maine, Rhode Island, or Massachusetts that gets there first. But the nation’s smallest state may be our best bet for 2015.
Uruguay Sticks with Legal Weed
The small South American nation of Uruguay is currently the only nation where recreational marijuana is completely legal – in theory, anyway.
Legalization sailed through both houses of the Uruguayan Congress last year and easily won the signature of President Jose Mujica, a strong supporter of cannabis reform.
But voters never really supported the idea, and it soon became an albatross for Mujica. He tabled the program in 2014 with most observers predicting legalization will die an early death.
That could prove a big setback to reform efforts worldwide. Though legal weed will continue to spread in the United States, other parts of the world are more wary about ending prohibition. If Uruguay can hold on and implement its program, it will serve as a beacon for other world leaders.
April 20 Is Declared a National Holiday
There’s one big problem with 4/20, at least when it falls on a workday. The problem, of course, is work. Some of us are lucky enough to hold down jobs at dispensaries and head shops, but most of us work in industries that don’t much care for pot.
How much easier would life be for tokers if we had out own federally protected national holiday? We’d get the day off with pay. Schools would be closed. Mattress stores would offer incredible deals for stoners.
Hell, even international pirates have their own recognized holiday (though not national pirates, as far as we know). All we stoners have is an ordinary spring day when the cops are willing to look the other way for a few hours. Official recognition, in writing, by Congress, would go a long way toward acknowledging the critical historical role potheads have played in keeping America cool for 239 years.