Despite the fact that marijuana remains a Schedule I substance, according to federal law, and the Attorney General Jeff Sessions called it “life-wrecking,” cannabis won big in the November 2017 elections. With 2016 experiencing similar gains, it appears legal use of medical and recreational marijuana continues to march forward as voters across the nation recognize the usefulness of the plant.
November 2017 Cannabis Gains — States
Ralph Northam, Virginia’s lieutenant governor, was elected governor in November. He earned 54% of the overall popular vote. Northam is an Army vet and a pediatrician. He also endorsed decriminalizing marijuana and made it one of the tenets of his winning campaign.
Democrat Phil Murphy won the top seat in Jersey in part with a campaign promise to legalize cannabis for voters 21 and older. New Jersey already allows medicinal marijuana; Murphy wants to make it legal for recreational use, too. He’s promised to work with the state legislature to enact these new laws in the first 100 days of his tenure. If this occurs, New Jersey will be the ninth state in the nation to legalize pot for recreational usage.
Murphy edged out the Republican and had this to say at his election-night victory speech:
The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana — and while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.
November 2017 Pot Gains – Cities
Detroit voters supported two measures to make it easier for cannabis dispensaries to open up shop.
This small college town passed The Athens Cannabis Ordinance that reduces penalties for misdemeanor marijuana violations. It eliminates the $150 to $250 fines that came from the casual possession of up to 200 grams of pot. It should be noted that Ohio does not allow marijuana for recreational use, only for medical.
A progressive D.A. named Lawrence Krasner was elected in November. Krasner campaigned to end mass incarceration by changing how the city handles non-violent crimes – like pot possession. Marijuana advocates applauded his stance, suggesting that lumping violent offenders with those who possess cannabis, was in itself, a criminal act.
States Leaning Toward Legalization
The latest Gallup poll shows overwhelming national support for legal marijuana. 64% of Americans believe in legalization, and that support breaks evenly across both political parties, the survey showed. This was the first time that Republican voters joined with Democrats in supporting legal weed.
Currently, eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use. An additional 13 states have decriminalized possession of the drug, but not legalized its use. Another 29 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes.
Yet the federal government lags behind in liberalizing pot laws. They still list it as a Schedule I substance, which means it has no medical value and a high potential for abuse.
How federal and state law will intersect in the future remains to be seen, however, it’s clear that marijuana continues its inexorable march toward legalization – one way or another.