|While the nation has had its eyes fixed on the West Coast when looking to friendly-for-cannabis states like Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and California, it looks like cities and states in other parts of the country are joining in to say “Yes we cann!”
Most notably, two states on the East Coast each won governors with progressive cannabis agendas.
Phil Murphy (Democrat), whose dominant campaign theme was the legalization of marijuana, won the governorship in New Jersey. Murphy believes in the financial benefits of marijuana legalization, as sales tax revenue from the industry could garner the state $300 million or more annually. But to Murphy, it’s not just about the financial interests – “The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,” Murphy said, and “while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”
In Virginia, Ralph Northam (Democrat) won the gubernatorial race, and like Murphy, also heralded progressive cannabis views as part of his campaign. Northam, an Army veteran and pediatrician, advocated for marijuana decriminalization, and framed the subject against a racial backdrop – “We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color. One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana. African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia. The Commonwealth spends more than $67 million on marijuana enforcement – money that could be better spent on rehabilitation.”
On a municipal level, citizens in different localities also showed the ballot that the time for cannabis reform is now:
- In Athens, Ohio, a college town, voters overwhelmingly approved a measure that will completely eliminate fines and court costs for possessing and cultivating up to 200 grams of marijuana.
- In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, citizens voted in Lawrence Krasner to be the new district attorney – Krasner is a defense attorney known for his vocal cannabis reform advocacy, as he has spoken on the inherent racial inequality in marijuana drug enforcement.
- In Detroit, Michigan’s Wayne County, two ballot measures passed which will relax city codes and zoning ordinances to allow medical cannabis businesses to operate in more areas and stay open longer.
It looks like citizens from coast to coast are slowly sowing the seeds to make more and more regions in the United States cannabis-friendly. With the ever-shifting political tides, it will be interesting to observe how cannabis reform continues to bud and brew.