Not everyone who supports the legalization of marijuana also supports gay marriage – just like not everyone who supports gay marriage also backs criminal justice reform.
But these issues are far from mutually exclusive. They ride on similar currents of popular opinion, and if recent days are any indication, their time has come.
Don’t be surprised to wake up 10 years from today and find that cannabis is legal from coast to coast, or at least close enough that you could easily drive across state lines and smoke it there. Change is coming, and it will only accelerate as time passes.
Landmark decision for gay rights
On June 26 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision enshrining the right of gay couples to marry. The day before, a similarly sweeping ruling upheld President Barack Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act.
At the same time, a mass shooting in Charleston, S.C., drove political leaders across the country, left and right, to immediately and permanently pull the Confederate flag from its many official perches.
Meanwhile, a growing coalition of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle is pushing a once-in-a-generation movement to overhaul the nation’s criminal justice system – to end mandatory minimum sentences, provide treatment and probation instead of incarceration, and address mental health issues in special courts instead of jails.
Such outcomes would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. But what does it all mean for marijuana?
Whatever your position on same-sex marriage, legal s, or Obamacare, take heart in the fact that cannabis laws will continue to change, too. There may be only a short window of time before the current pace of events slows, so it’s critical that advocates act now. And that’s exactly what they’re doing.
Marijuana increasingly available
Marijuana is currently legal for medical use in 37 states, including 14 that allow only a non-intoxicating form of the drug known as CBD oil. Four states also allow the cultivation, sale, and use of cannabis for recreation: Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, and Washington State, as well as Washington, D.C.
Full legalization will likely be on the ballot in as many as 10 states next year, including California, the nation’s most populous state. Even if some of those initiatives die at the polls, others will surely pass.
There have already been setbacks. Maine lawmakers recently voted down a bill that would have legalized marijuana for personal use and created a regulated industry to grow and sell the drug.
Overall, though, the outlook for cannabis users is bright and getting brighter. It may yet take a long time to bring full reform to every corner of the country, but it is already spreading quickly, and the odds it will stop anytime soon are slim and getting slimmer.