There is more public support for marijuana law reform than ever before with polls showing more than half the country is in favor of legalizing marijuana.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) believes marijuana should be removed from the criminal legal system and regulated for adult use, with equity, social justice, and community reinvestment at the core.
By S. Johnson
Even though cannabis is now a part of my daily life, you should know that I didn’t always feel that way.
Before cannabis was legal, I didn’t even entertain the idea of it. I had no problem with people around me doing it, but it was something that I simply would not do.
Not only because it was illegal, but because of personal ideas and opinions, then everything changed.
Colorado put the legalization of marijuana on the ballot and quickly the United States became a different place.
Plenty of the best people I knew were known to imbibe. I didn’t think that it was going to ruin any lives or that people should be criminally punished for it, so of course, I voted yes when I cast my vote when finally, the extremely conservative state of Utah put to the issue to vote, along with the other 36 states who had already chosen to legalize.
Now here we are, legalized medical cannabis.
Then my husband qualified for his medical cannabis card. We visited the dispensary and that night, for the first time ever in his life, he smoked cannabis. I had smoked marijuana when I was much younger and so I knew how to monitor him while he was ‘under the influence’.
I watched him completely relax for the first time in many years, then he slept, and I mean he really slept. Woke the next day refreshed and happy and completely sober with zero side effects.
This continued for a few weeks, every night just before bed, and every day the same result. Deep healthy sleep and fresh and energized the next morning.
After seeing the change in him, he finally convinced me to give it a try again for the first time in decades. I suffer from severe CPTSD and chronic pain, I won’t go into why, and I honestly didn’t think it was going to make the tiniest difference in my life.
However, that night was the first time in many years that I finally felt relaxed, truly relaxed. My constant companion of pain was gone and I easily fell asleep without any other chemical assistance whatsoever, which had been the case for many years.
I slept the sleep of angels and could hardly believe how rested I felt the next day. Full of energy, great mood, and able to focus like I hadn’t been able to for the first time in, I couldn’t remember how long.
I was sold.
Medical cannabis has changed my sleep, pain, life, and my feelings toward the medicinal use of cannabis, forever. I don’t want to go back to the way things were now that I know the difference.
In general, a lot of people meet my cannabis use with surprise.
When they learn that I use it, there is kind of a wide-eyed shock. Sometimes it is because the person I know is subtly against it and thought I was more like them, and sometimes it is because I’m very much a rule follower and even though medical cannabis is legal now, there is still the unspoken rule about whether or not it is acceptable.
We all know that cannabis is legal, but I learned very quickly that for the people who spent time fearing the law over it, the mere idea of its legalization felt like a trick, like the government was just trying to get a list of people to arrest.
Now I get questions instead of contempt.
My friends wanted to know what a dispensary was like, how difficult it is to get a medical cannabis card, how expensive it is, will it work on this or that medical condition, and many other good questions. The same questions I had before I decided to give it a try.
From what I can tell, a lot of people tried a completely different kind of cannabis.
When I talk to people who smoked weed before it was legal (particularly people in their late 30s or older), there is this common theme of skunk weed.
Skunk weed is a common term for weed grown in the 70s and early 80s (though it persisted even after that) and apparently todays medical cannabis products are very different.
Based on the conversations that I have had, the old weed was kind of muggy.
It smelled weird. It calmed you down but made you a little too relaxed. It was heavy in its own weird way.
And, it is unclear if it was this specific kind of weed or just what people used to get from those that sold it. Either way, the old weed is definitely not the same as what is available in legal dispensaries now.
It’s simple, science changes industries, and I think it is time more people understood that.
Now, medical cannabis is so refined that they can predictably dose it out for specific uses.
I have the luxury of deciding if I want to just relax or sleep if I want to dive into a flurry of creative genius, or simply calm down at the end of a bad day.
Now, cannabis is created and regulated in a way that is fairly clinical and the experience is incredibly controlled.
If your entire experience with cannabis happened even ten years ago, you don’t know medical cannabis being produced today.
The cannabis products at dispensaries are not the same weed that you may have grown up with. It’s not going to make you lazy or turn you into a hippie. It won’t make you freak out (your weed was probably laced, I’m sorry).
Modern weed is the product of scientific advancements. It is botany. It is food science. It is pharmaceutical in nature. As much as any of the medications and supplements that you take every day.
So before you brush it off, before you voice your opinion, recognize the difference.
There is a reason that Doctors don’t give out the same medications we gave out ten years ago.
As science evolves, we learn more and we make better treatments and better medical choices concerning our health.
This isn’t your grandparents' weed. It is something entirely new, and it deserves a little more respect than it’s been given in the past.
The use of medical cannabis has changed the parts of my existence that I accepted as ‘part of growing older’ into a thing of my past.
I won’t go back to the way things were and I feel you should honestly talk with your medical professional to explore the possibilities available to you. Medical cannabis is no longer taboo. It really works.
We can’t, as a society, keep our beliefs stuck in the past or we will not be able to move forward.
Before you cement your opinions, ask questions, do your own research, educate yourself and then decide.
1. Anyone 21 or older can buy recreational marijuana in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.
Pot shops for recreational marijuana have been open for business in Colorado and Washington since 2014, in Oregon since 2015, and in Alaska since 2016.
2. You can possess pot and get high legally in eight states and Washington, D.C., as long as you're at least 21.
Recreational marijuana was legalized in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada in 2016. It was legalized in Washington, D.C., in 2015. Vermont almost became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through legislative means, but the governor vetoed the bill on May 24, 2017.
3. Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states.
According to the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group, medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam. West Virginia became the 29th in April, the day before 4/20 when the governor signed medical marijuana into law. In 18 other states, medical marijuana laws are so restrictive that the MPP considers them "ineffective or flawed."
4. You can still be fired for smoking marijuana.
Even if you show up for work as sober as a judge, you can be fired for flunking a drug test in most states. This has happened to some medical patients.
5. The government owns and operates a pot store.
The city of North Bonneville, Washington, opened the Cannabis Corner in 2015. It's the first municipally owned pot shop. Profits go to special city projects, like upgrading the local playgrounds.
6. There's a black market for pot, even where it's legal.
That's not just because old habits die hard. Illegal pot is cheaper because it's tax-free, while legal recreational pot is taxed heavily. 17 % – 37 % tax, depending on the city and county. Growers, processors, retailers, and buyers all pay taxes.
Medical marijuana tends to be cheaper than recreational because it is taxed at a lower rate.
7. Banking is a buzzkill for pot shops.
Pot remains illegal in the eyes of the federal government, which classifies it the same as heroin. Banks are regulated by the feds, which means that most banks won't go near dispensaries, forcing many of them to deal in cash.
In 2014, the Justice Department issued guidelines for banks on how to legally provide financial services to state-licensed marijuana businesses. But many banks remain wary of dispensaries.
8. You can't take marijuana across state lines.
Even when two legal states share a border, as Washington and Oregon do, carrying weed across state lines runs afoul of federal law. Don't bring it on a plane, and don't mail it.
9. You can't smoke and drive.
Driving while stoned is illegal and dangerous, just like drunken driving. But there's no Breathalyzer for weed, which is a conundrum for cops. That could change because two companies - Hound Labs and Cannabix Technologies - are testing marijuana Breathalyzers.
10. You can't smoke weed in public anywhere. Yet.
Sorry, but those 420 pot parties in city parks are illegal, even in states where cannabis is legal.
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