Though 4/20 is not Bob Marley’s birthday or the number of chemical compounds in cannabis or police code for a “smoking cannabis in progress” infraction, it is widely celebrated to honor cannabis through its mass consumption. On this most hallowed of cannabis holidays, we explore the top five reasons why this particular 4/20 is better than its predecessors. Boy, have things changed, mostly for the better:
1. Four states and our nation’s capital have legalized cannabis for adult use. Since marijiuana is still a Schedule I controlled substance, this factoid is pretty mind-blowing. As of January 2015, Oregon, Alaska, Washington, Colorado, and D.C. have legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older. Though these four states have legalized the production, manufacturing, and distribution of cannabis, D.C. only legalized possession of certain amounts for eligible adults. To read more about legalization in Oregon, Alaska, and D.C., check out Oregon, Alaska, and D.C. Legalize Adult Use Marijuana. Congratulations!
2. For the first time in decades, a federal judge considered de-scheduling marijuana. California federal judge Kimberly Mueller made the groundbreaking decision to take up the appropriateness of marijuana as a schedule I drug under the federal controlled substances act in what would have otherwise been a run-of-the-mill criminal case. Judge Mueller justified the hearing by concluding that “there is new scientific and medical information raising contested issues of fact regarding whether the continued inclusion of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance.” Her decision to even take up the issue was a big deal, as federal judges historically have ignored this issue in marijuana criminal cases. Though Judge Mueller ultimately declined to find marijuana’s currently scheduling to be unconstitutional, things have been teed up for a solid appeal to the 9th circuit and eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court.
3. Congress passed a bill to prevent the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with states that legalize or decriminalize marijuana for medical use. This year, buried in Section 538 of the “omnibus” appropriations bill, Congress included this provision:
None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, [every other medical marijuana state], to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.
The good news? The plain reading of this section of the bill is that the Drug Enforcement Administration can no longer use federal funds to make raids or arrests based on medical marijuana conduct. The relatively bad news? The DOJ does not seem to be honoring its new leash.
4. Ben & Jerry’s seriously contemplated getting into the marijuana business. And they’re not the only ones. In a Huffington Post interview, Ben & Jerry’s co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield indicated support for creating pot-infused ice cream after a viewer advocated for their doing so in states where marijuana is legal. “Makes sense to me,” Cohen told Huffington Post, to “combine your pleasures.” Greenfield was not quite as direct but admitted that “Ben and I have had previous experiences with substances, and I think legalizing marijuana is a wonderful thing.” Still, so long as cannabis remains federally illegal, the company’s lawyers and shareholders are not ready to pull the trigger on marijuana-infused ice cream (sigh). Nonetheless, the sentiment of established corporate players wanting entry into the industry in some way, shape, or form is taking off. Just ask Snoop Dogg, Bob Marley, Willie Nelson, and Scotts.
5. Native American tribes can establish their own marijuana regimes. In one of the biggest marijuana policy bombshells in a while, the DOJ issued an enforcement memo in October 2014 detailing how Native American Indian tribes may legalize cannabis on tribal lands as long as that legalization is done with approval from the U.S. Attorney(s) in the tribe’s district. Though we have yet to see any tribes actually undertake marijuana legalization we know that will change as soon as various tribes get their legal and financial bearings. The question now becomes whether tribal marijuana will look like tribal gaming or become an entirely different type of tribal business venture.
On today’s 4/20 we can all really feel and see the consistent chipping away of unfair, antiquated federal drug laws. Despite all that remains to be done, we are farther along towards full legalization today than last year and ten years before that.
Be sure to have a merry 4/20 and enjoy the progress!