The push for legalization began in the 1970s, with the famous song “Legalize It” by reggae singer, Peter Tosh, becoming the anthem for the movement in his native Jamaica and in the United States. Ever since, there have been people arguing for legalization, but in the last few years, the movement has really picked up steam. Still, there are some major obstacles to overcome before full legalization can be possible.
So what’s still standing in the way of legalizing it?
Here are five big issues:
- Disagreements over What Should Be Legal. Supporters of marijuana legalization don’t fully agree on precisely what should be made legal. Many want to push for full decriminalization, even for recreational use, but many proponents of medical marijuana feel that those who use marijuana without a medical reason take away the credibility of using cannabis as a beneficial medication.
- Debates over Regulation and Taxation. Some opposition against the full legalization of marijuana comes from commercial growers, home growers, and individuals who own or aspire to own dispensaries. These individuals are often wary of the idea of complete legalization, as they worry about having profits unfairly taxed or the industry over regulated.
- Not everyone is On Board. There are still some segments of the population that are overwhelmingly against marijuana legalization. Studies show that about 60 percent of Republicans are anti-marijuana, as well as 60 percent of Hispanics. In addition, fewer than 30 percent of seniors aged 70 to 87 are for the legalization of marijuana.
- Even Supporters Aren’t Completely Open to It. Some people don’t mind the idea of marijuana being legal as long as they and their families can’t see it. Although the percentage of people who are for the legalization of marijuana is much higher, only 38 percent of Americans are comfortable with someone being able to smoke or vaporize marijuana using an herbal vaporizer (see Vapor Plants), in public.
- Lack of Understanding. Ignorance about what using marijuana is really like is one of the biggest obstacles to progress. A little less than half of all Americans have never tried marijuana, and only have secondhand (and often untrue) information to form opinions on. Many people also have misconceptions about what the average marijuana user is like, assuming they are all “stoners” or “potheads”.
Signs of Progress
Despite the obstacles, there are signs that the times are changing:
- Supporters are finally in the majority. It’s a narrow majority, but currently, 53 percent of Americans feel that marijuana should be legal. That figure first jumped 11 percent from 2010 to 2013, but it has remained steady since, indicating that people aren’t currently being convinced that cannabis should be legalized at a fast pace.
- Opinions about safety are changing. Studies show that roughly 70 percent of people surveyed think alcohol use poses more health risks than marijuana use, and about 60 percent feel that if marijuana were to become fully legal, alcohol would be a bigger threat to society than the drug.
- Lawmakers are starting to listen. At this time, four states and the Distinct of Columbia have fully legalized marijuana, and an additional 14 states have passed laws to either allow for medical marijuana use or have decriminalized the drug.
- Most don’t mind if it goes on behind closed doors. Roughly 85 percent of Americans do not oppose people using marijuana in their own homes, provided they remain there while intoxicated.
Those who advocate the legalization of marijuana still have a steep road ahead of them, but if they can stop the infighting, come together, and focus on educating their communities, there is hope that one day it might be legal across the United States. As more information on cannabis and marijuana facts get out to educate the individual, the easier it will be to come together and understand this prohibition.