It almost seems that not a week passes without another state or country decriminalizing marijuana. In November of this year, 2020, Oregon will become the first state to decriminalize all drugs including heroin, LSD and oxycodone for personal use. This may seem a step too far for some but by decriminalizing these drugs it allows the police to ignore people who are possessing small amounts for personal use.
This frees up prison space, stops regular users being turned into criminals which can then affect them for the rest of their lives and saves taxpayers money.
While decriminalizing harder drugs may be difficult for some people to accept, the majority of people seem to be leaning towards making marijuana legal. There are many plus points for doing so including the aforementioned freeing up of police time and resources but also the medical usage of marijuana and generation of tax dollars. There are dispensaries across America now selling cannabis products and you can buy weed online.
Where in America can you use marijuana legally?
Of all the states in the US only six still hold marijuana as completely illegal. These states are Idaho, Wyoming, Kansas, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee. All the other states have either fully legalized the use of marijuana, decriminalized it or allowed medical usage. To see your own state and find out what the legal situation is you can check a marijuana legality map online.
What are the different classifications for marijuana?
There are four ways that marijuana usage is classified across America. That is Medicinal, Decriminalized, Recreational and Illegal.
This one speaks for itself. If you find yourself in Alabama with some marijuana then you are risking arrest. In six states it is still completely illegal to possess, use, sell or grow marijuana.
The majority of states have medical marijuana programs. Not all of them are operational however and some only cover a limited range of conditions. CBD aka cannabidiol has a wide variety of medical properties and does not get you high unlike THC. It can be used to manage and alleviate symptoms in epilepsy, anxiety, cancer, chronic pain and multiple sclerosis. Although not every state has legalized medical usage there are many that still allow some limited usage of CBD.
This is the term that causes the most confusion. Decriminalized does not mean legal. The easiest way is to say it means you won’t go to jail. A state that has decriminalized marijuana allows people to possess a small amount of marijuana with no fear of prison. It can still mean you can be punished by at worst that is likely to mean a fine or citation.
America has a history of throwing people in prison for marijuana possession so decriminalizing this is a big step forward to reducing the prison population. There are over 40,000 people incarcerated for marijuana offences including many life sentences given out under the 3 strike rule even as marijuana is being legalized across the states.
There are now a number of states that have allowed the residents there to smoke and use marijuana recreationally. This usage should be treated in the same way as alcohol. I.e. it is not ok to sit out in the open smoking away and getting stoned. You are likely to need to be 21 or over and you will then be able to keep a modest amount on your person or in your home and smoke discreetly. You may also be able to grow a few plants. Buying from reputable local sources is a good idea such as a cannabis dispensary in Hamilton if you lived in that area.
Is it legal in other countries?
Marijuana is decriminalized or legalized in many other countries too. Gone are the days when people had to head to Amsterdam for a visit to the coffee shops. Many countries allow personal usage. If you are looking to visit a foreign country in the future then you should find out the definite laws there before you decide to light up. Some facts on the internet may not be exactly accurate.
For instance many backpackers have written about how the ‘happy’ pizzas and shakes were in countries such as Laos and Cambodia. This doesn’t mean that smoking weed is legal or safe. Locals may be able to grow a certain number of plants for their own medicinal and cooking uses but non locals should tread warily. A cafe selling happy shakes is very likely paying money to authorities to look the other way. While you may be safe to ingest or smoke weed inside one of these establishments it will be a very different matter if you decide to light up in the street or back at your guesthouse.
Visiting a poorer country and buying illegal drugs is a fast way to be parted from your holiday money and you may get to see the inside of a police cell. Check local laws before travelling and then ask again when you arrive to make sure. Foreigners working in bars and guesthouses will know the local area and advise you from doing something that will get you in trouble.
The argument for legalizing marijuana?
There are many reasons that legalizing marijuana could be a good thing. Firstly it leads to police being able to concentrate on more serious concerns than busting teenagers with a bag of weed. The consequences of youths being arrested and charged can affect their prospects for the rest of their lives. Police in 2018 stated that 36.8% of possession arrests were from marijuana so this huge burden on the justice system would be removed.
Marijuana has medical benefits that have been proven. It can relieve pain and manage chronic symptoms for illnesses such as glaucoma, AIDS and cancer.
By legalizing the drug it can reduce violent criminal behavior by taking control of the drug out of the hands of gangs and criminals and placing it in legally run dispensaries.
There are financial benefits too. By legalizing marijuana taxes on the product can be used towards education, healthcare and drug rehabilitation programs.
Marijuana is becoming less criminal all around the world but there is still some way to go before it is safe or legal to walk around smoking weed openly. If you are travelling across the states you should check the laws for your destination as crossing state lines with marijuana can still lead to big fines and jail time in the wrong regions. Also when you are overseas always abide by the local laws and don’t spark up a doobie because a scruffy backpacker on Koh San Road said it was ok to do so.