It no longer seems like a matter of if, but a matter of when the federal U.S. government will recognize legitimate medical uses for marijuana. Cannabidiol (or, CBD), a less psychoactive chemical found in the marijuana plant, has a wide range of demonstrated medical applications for conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, anxiety, schizophrenia, nausea, and seizures, and has even been used to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (or, THC), CBD’s psychoactive big brother, has also been used to address medical conditions such as neuropathic and chronic pain. Medical argument aside, the recreational legalization movement is also gaining traction.
Colorado recently became the first state to begin experimenting with the legal cultivation, processing, and sale of recreational marijuana, possibly paving the way for more states to follow suit. While the federal governments hums and haws, the debate over marijuana legalization is alive and well in many states across the nation.
1. New Jersey
New Jersey has been home to some of the most vehement debates surrounding the legalization of medical marijuana. The state approved the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act 0n January 18 2010, just one day before Republican Governor Chris Christie took office. Christie, not one to go down without a fight, has traditionally opposed the legalization of marijuana in any form, and only begrudgingly implemented medical marijuana legislation passed by his democratic predecessor.
New Jersey’s medical marijuana laws are regarded among the strictest in the nation. To date, just three out of six of the medical dispensaries established by the law have opened, more than three years after the law was first passed in 2010.
On January 13, the state legislature passed a bill aimed at protecting medical marijuana patients. The bill would prohibit healthcare providers from denying procedures to patients who have been prescribed medical marijuana. Or, in other words, that medical marijuana be treated just like any other medicine prescribed by a doctor.
On January 13, two state senators in the Keystone State introduced legislation that would legalize medical use of marijuana. The bill, also called the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, is not the first to be proposed in the state — but there is growing support for the legalization of medical marijuana both in the state and around the nation that could serve as a tailwind for the legislation. But the buck, as it goes in states, stops with the governor (or a supermajority0). Governor Tom Corbett has said he would veto any medical marijuana legislation that reached his desk.
If medical marijuana is legalized in Florida, it will be because of two very different but equally legitimate movements. The first focuses around debilitating, intractable forms of epilepsy that can be eased with medical marijuana high in CBD but low in THC. A form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome has been the focus of this debate.
Anecdotal evidence shows that a strain of marijuana called Charlotte’s Web can dramatically reduce the number of seizures that children with the condition suffer — in at least one case, from literally hundreds per week to only about one. Some Florida policymakers have stated that they will pursue finding a way for those in need to obtain the high-CBD marijuana they need.
The other movement comes from the other end of the age spectrum. There’s no hiding the fact that getting older comes with complications, and it’s also no secret that prescription medication used to manage some of the difficulties of aging can have damaging side effects. With this in mind, a growing number of senior citizens have turned to marijuana, and advocacy groups are pushing for medical legalization on this front.
Alaska could be the third state to legalize recreational marijuana if a group of residents has their way. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana recently submitted more than 45,000 signatures (30,000 were required) to the state in an effort to get marijuana on the August ballot.
“The proposed initiative will take marijuana sales out of the underground market and put them in legitimate, taxpaying businesses,” Tim Hinterberger, a sponsor of the campaign, told CNN. “Replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and sensible regulation will bolster Alaska’s economy by creating jobs and generating revenue for the state.” Alaska is already one of 20 states where medical marijuana is legal.
Washington passed an initiative to legalize the cultivation, sale, and use of recreational marijuana in 2012, and is expected to begin implementing the legislation this year. Following Colorado, Washington will be the second state to participate in the experiment of recreational legalization.
Like with the law in Colorado, Washington’s law prescribes how marijuana tax revenues will be spent. The majority will go toward the state’s health trust, and a sizable portion will be spent on drug abuse and education programs.