Which New States Legalized Marijuana?
On November 4th, 2014, voters in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC made their voices heard. They voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
This is a historic day for lawmakers, marijuana advocates, and most importantly the citizens of Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC. This is a triumph of democracy. Regardless of your personal opinion on marijuana, the voters in these states have spoken.
Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC join Washington state and Colorado as the latest states to legalize recreational marijuana use. That’s to say nothing of the twenty-three states were medical marijuana is legal, or the seventeen states which have decriminalized its use.
Is the War on Drugs Over?
Marijuana advocates all over the country are celebrating this wave of legislation. They’re taking to the streets, spliffs in hand, rejoicing over “the end of the war on drugs.”
Okay, that’s a bit of hyperbole, both the spliffs and the end of the war on drugs. Still, this trend of legalizing marijuana has far reaching implications. It almost certainly is the beginning of the end for the war on drugs.
What exactly do I mean by that? It’s simple. By and large, Americans favor the federal legalization of marijuana. According to a 2014 Pew Research poll, 54% of the country thinks marijuana should be legal.
Legalizing marijuana’s one thing, but what about hard drugs? What about heroin, methamphetamine, and crack? What about those and the war on drugs? Well, things get a bit more complicated when hard drugs come in to play.
I don’t foresee a day when heroin is legal or crack is sold at CVS. Still, a progressive attitude towards drugs in general will benefit those who’re addicted to hard drugs. After all, if a majority of the country wants to legalize marijuana, they’re likely to support increased treatment for heroin addiction, meth abuse, and the like.
A Brief History of Legal Marijuana
- 1930’s – Marijuana, along with many other drugs, is made illegal in the United States
- 1964 – Scientists begin studying the effects of marijuana use in Jamaican communities
- 1970’s – The drug Marinol, a synthetic version of THC, is approved for medical use in the United States
- Mid to late 90’s – Eight states legalize marijuana for medical use
- 2000’s – Fifteen more states legalize marijuana for medical use. Also, several states begin to decriminalize recreational marijuana possession and use
- 2010 on – Four states and Washington DC legalize recreational marijuana use and possession. Twenty-three states allow medical marijuana use. Seventeen states have decriminalized marijuana
What Does This Mean for Those in Recovery?
This is where the conversation around legalizing marijuana gets a bit dicey. What does legal access to a drug, which many consider to be safe, mean for recovering addicts and alcoholics?
I don’t think it changes all that much, actually. Alcohol is legal. Prescription medication is legal. Over-the-counter drugs with a high potential for abuse are legal. Substances like “spice” and Kratom are legal (in most states).
So, the growing number of states that have legal weed doesn’t change much for us sober folks. It allows us legal access to one more mind and mood altering chemical, but that’s it.
Besides, if you’ve read recovery literature, you know that we can go anywhere in sobriety. The tenth step promises state,
“We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame…We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation…Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition” (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84-85).
Now that marijuana’s legal in an increasing number of states, those in recovery, myself included, need to work our programs harder.
I know that if I’m going to meetings, I’m in no danger if someone walks past me smoking a joint. I know that if I’m praying and meditating, I’m in no danger if I see people with weed. I know that if I’m helping others, I’m in no danger of relapsing. Period.