Coronavirus lockdown situation is making people reconsider their views against cannabis legalization. The nationwide protests have increased the legalization taxes and equity arguments. The marijuana businesses are hoping to double their profits this time.
COVID-19 is a source of great trying times for us. People are learning a great many lessons in these unique moments of the century. There are unprecedented challenges forcing people to think out of the box.
The campaign for cannabis legalization is also catching fire. People are more positive than ever. There are protests nationwide and the campaign stands for their beliefs- benefitting from the situation.
Due to the increase in average stress of the people thanks to the depressed ambient, governments are also paying heed towards the issue.
After the legalization of medicinal cannabis, the states are now moving towards decriminalizing adult use of marijuana. the supporters believe that people need to get access to it in order to easily deal with everyday tensions and pains.
They also credit cannabis to be one of the main industry drivers. The cannabis industry has a great role in the economy of the US. Many people are benefitting from the instalments.
What are the opponents’ views?
The opposers say that the marijuana industry is doing worse than good. It is leading to an increase in prolonged addictions. This further leads to other problems such as an increase in crime rate and drug driving.
Addiction is the biggest enemy for a dynamic functioning personality. Addiction is a liability and it voids us of basic human decency. Excess of anything is bad.
In order to control this behaviour, the government has to interfere and regulate the use of the drug. For the regulation, they have to impose taxes and keep the rates high.
This also has a shortcoming. Not everyone can afford high rates especially in the lockdown situation and such regulations result in many patients not being able to receive adequate amounts.
There needs to be a middle way in order to satisfy both the parties. If we go with complete legalization of the drug, it can affect social culture very badly.
Presently, the tide for legalizing the drug completely for adults to keep and grow is catching heat. This will also help in decentralizing the economy. It will also stop the industry players like Curaleaf from being the only benefitter from the industry.
People will be able to manage businesses at home. They can also satisfy their medical needs by growing enough for them at home.
The present scenario
Presently there are a total of five states deciding on whether to legalize adult-use cannabis. Each of them has its own agenda and reasons for legalization.
The question remains whether this legalization is beneficial or not. The recreational pot makers are of the opinion that cannabis legalization is beneficial. They say in this way, the police can focus on more serious issues and stop wasting time and effort.
Also, the users that are criminalized have almost no future prospects. This leads to an increase in public despair which is not desirable under any condition.
There are both people in support and the ones against the notion. Both are justified in their case. However, it falls upon the state to manage this raising issue in the face of the lockdown situation.
If the states are able to find a middle ground for both the parties, it will be beneficial for all of us. Let us hope for the best!
Overview of Marijuana Laws in New Mexico
New Mexico, also known as the Land of Enchantment, is a state located in the southwestern region of the USA. It was 47th to join the union in 1912, after which it became the fifth-largest state in the U.S.A area wise. When marijuana was slammed with a legal prohibition during the 1920s in the country, New Mexico followed suit and banned it in 1923. Since then, marijuana laws in the state have undergone quite a few significant changes.
Here is an overview of marijuana laws in New Mexico and their current legal standing in the region.
Marijuana usage before the legal ban
Up until the early 1800s, marijuana was pretty much a legal drug within the United States. Although its recreational usage was not a very common idea, it was widely used for medical purposes. In addition to this, it was used to make everyday products like ropes, clothes, canvas, sacks, and many other things.
It might be hard to believe today, but in 1619, not growing hemp was considered illegal in areas like Virginia, Massachusetts, and even Connecticut. This was because the plant was considered extremely resourceful. Later on in the 1700s, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, South Carolina, and North Carolina were granted special licenses to promote hemp cultivation and production.
Surprisingly enough, many political personalities of the United States had also cultivated hemp in the past. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin are among them.
Reefer Madness overshadows benefits of Marijuana Plant
Starting in 1906, cannabis was typecasted as a poisonous drug. Its out-and-out prohibitions began in the 1920s following the Mexican Revolution.
Most marijuana advocates believe that the legal ban had more to do with racism than its psychoactive effects. According to Tommy Chong, “Marijuana prohibition has been a racial law right from the get-go. It followed the path of the Chinese opium law. Britain actually almost ruined China with the opium trade and so America, when they wanted to demonize a race of people, they would outlaw their habits – that’s what prohibition was all about. Prohibition was just basically a racist law.”
Therefore in an attempt to stigmatize Mexican’marihuana’ users, the drug was officially outlawed state by state in the U.S. Reefer madness took over the news, movies, and television after which medicinal benefits of the plant were forgotten. The propaganda against it was very strong and successfully associated with violent behavior, rape, and even murder.
New Mexico Moves Ahead towards Reforming Marijuana Laws
In 1978, New Mexico became the first-ever state to acknowledge the medicinal value of marijuana after decades of prohibitions.
The move was strongly motivated by the efforts of Lynn Pierson, a cancer patient who died during his struggle to gain legal access to medical marijuana. Having endured a lot of suffering during the course of his chemotherapy sessions, he found solace in marijuana. “A few puffs of pot took nausea away. And there was hardly any vomiting. Then I got really hungry. Hell, I ate so much I actually gained some weight,” he said.
It was due to his efforts that the Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act was passed with an overwhelming majority. Governor Jerry Apocada signed it as an ’emergency legislation’, setting the bill as a model for at least 30 more states for upcoming years.
Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act
In 2007, honoring the memories of Lynn Pierson and Erin Armstrong (another cancer patient and advocate of marijuana legalization), medical marijuana was legalized in New Mexico.
The legislation was entitled ‘ The Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act’ and established a system of marijuana usage under the regulations of NMDOH. The system aimed to provide patients legal access to the Medical Cannabis Program of the state. It made adults aged 18 or above qualifiable to receive medical marijuana if they had certain ailments. A list of 28 medical conditions was prepared that included eligible medical conditions. Some of them include:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
- Cervical dystonia
- Crohn’s disease
- Epilepsy and seizure disorders
- Hepatitis C
Later in 2018, the state’s biggest city, Albuquerque, decriminalized the possession of 1 ounce (28 grams) of marijuana. Any amount above it was a punishable offense causing a fine of $25. These marijuana laws were further revised in 2019, whereby possessing up to half an ounce (14 grams) led to a $50 fine instead of jail time. Patients are allowed to possess up to 8 ounces (277 grams) of marijuana over a three month period.
As of now, patients can only obtain medicinal marijuana from state-licensed non-profit producers. Unauthorized distributors, users, or sellers are liable to face criminal prosecutions and penalties.
Here’s Why Tommy Chong is an Active Advocate for Cannabis
Tommy Chong is a well-known face around the world for more than one reason. He is an actor, writer, director, musician, comedian, and most prominently a very famous cannabis advocate. His legalization efforts have continued for a good part of his life and were expressed intently through his music, films, and other creative works.
Starring alongside Richard Cheech in the Grammy Award-winning comedy flick ‘Cheech & Chong‘, Tommy Chang has been quite vocal about his love for marijuana. His stand-up shows with Richard Chee were quite impactful during their time, speaking volumes about their support for the cannabis movement. They were so successful that most of their shows were sold out in the 1970s – a time when the ‘war on drugs’ was at its peak in the entire world.
What Does Tommy Chong Believe About Cannabis Criminalization?
Hailing from immigrant families himself, Chong sternly believes that the war on drugs has its roots in xenophobia.
According to him, “Marijuana prohibition has been a racial law right from the get-go. It followed the path of the Chinese opium law. Britain actually almost ruined China with the opium trade and so America, when they wanted to demonize a race of people, they would outlaw their habits – that’s what prohibition was all about. Prohibition was just basically a racist law.”
If we are to weigh his words and match them with reality, disagreeing with him would be hard. Here’s why:
Up until the early 1800s, there were no federal restrictions on the usage, retail, or possession of marijuana in the U.S. Hemp fiber derived from it was used to make products like clothes, paper, and rope. In addition to this, medicinal usage of the drug was also very common. It might sound ironic, but at the time of its prohibition, tinctures containing cannabis traces were present in probably every medicinal cabinet in the United States. It was used to treat various diseases like malaria, stomach ache and even ‘absentmindedness’.
Why then was cannabis criminalized and banned?
Just as Tommy Chong pointed out, cannabis was prohibited in an attempt to degrade and ‘demonize’ Mexican immigrants.
The early 1900s was a time when thousands of Mexican immigrants began seeking refuge in the United States. While smoking marijuana recreationally was not very common in the U.S, Mexican immigrants were quite fond of this practice.
This was seen as a great opportunity to instill ‘reefer madness’ among the people. Politicians were quick to substitute the term ‘cannabis’ with ‘marihuana’ to make it sound more authentically Mexican in order to create more prejudice. It worked of course. Newspapers were soon labeling Mexican cannabis use as a ‘marijuana menace’. In the words of Harry J. Anslinger, first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, marijuana caused “insanity, criminality, and death”.
Here is a quote from a New York Times story from 1927:
“A widow and her four children have been driven insane by eating the Marihuana plant, according to doctors, who say that there is no hope of saving the children’s lives and that the mother will be insane for the rest of her life,”
Going Back to the Future With Cannabis
With the increasing recognition of the therapeutic benefits of cannabis and its derivatives, laws surrounding it are slowly relaxing. The racism that has long haunted the drug is also vanishing slowly.
Tommy Chong compares this with the phenomena of going back to the future. He says that with more acceptance of the drug, society is going back to the beginning days. It is returning to days where there was no stigma attached to the drug.
According to him, one of the major challenges now faced by the industry is its federal prohibition. Businesses are unable to obtain finances for the fear of being prosecuted. This has led to a major part of the industry operating on cash transactions creating problems for them as well as regulators. Depending upon cash means that cannabis dispensaries are at the forefront of robberies and burglaries when civil unrest arises.
Cannabis is equally beneficial for the mind and body
Chong is a firm believer in the therapeutic benefits of cannabis. He has made a mention of its religious sacrament and its soothing impact on the mind and body.
“A lot of sports people that I’ve known are big marijuana advocates because it doesn’t tear you down like alcohol does or make you crazy or addicted like cocaine and heroin. So, marijuana is really the perfect stuff for everything including medicine.”
Cannabis reforms in Mexico – Will it join Canada and Uruguay?
The Mexican Senate has finally granted approval to cannabis reforms in the region after stalling the debate for almost two long years.
Earlier this month, senators were circulating a draft bill on the issue in hopes of getting these cannabis reforms moved to the full Senate floor for approval. Luckily for them, a joint hearing session was finally held today after being delayed for months due to the pandemic.
The Senate floor has cast 82 votes in favor of the bill, while 18 votes were cast against it. Moreover, about 7 senators abstained from voicing their opinion on the issue.
Although a big accomplishment for legalization advocates, the bill still has to surpass major hurdles before reforms can be fully implemented. Upon success, these changes will make Mexico the third country to fully legalize adult-use marijuana after Uruguay and Canada.
Many legalization advocates are hoping that lawmakers would now use this opportunity to devise policies that could have positive impacts on society. According to some, this move can be a ‘historic opportunity’ to ‘repair the harms of prohibition’ inflicted upon the residents of the community.
Moving forwards, the legalization bill still has to gain approval from the lower legislative chamber and get signatures from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. This will only be possible if the President doesn’t have any reservations about the legislatures proposed through the bill and signs it into the law.
Supreme Court issues deadline for cannabis reform implementation
In October of 2019, the Supreme Court had granted an extension to legislators to thoroughly review the issue. When senators were unable to reach a consensus, the new deadline was moved to April 2020. However, due to restrictions on in-person meetings, the process was delayed once again and another extension was granted.
For now, the new deadline set by the Supreme Court is December 15th. Senate President Eduardo Ramirez is hopeful that this time the legislative reforms would be achieved within the due date set by the court.
Cannabis Legalization Efforts in Mexico
The issue of cannabis legalization was brought to light when President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador assumed office in 2018. According to Senator Olga Sanchez Coredo, the prohibition of marijuana has claimed thousands of lives, fed violence, and magnified poverty in the nation. “We don’t want more deaths. It will be a major contribution to bringing peace to our beloved country.”
This announcement was in line with Supreme Court rulings that lifted the legal ban on the drug. Prohibition of the drug was deemed unconstitutional after this ruling. All other courts had to follow suit because as per Mexican law if the chamber of the Supreme Court has the same ruling on any matter five or more times, the decision becomes a compulsory precedent for all other courts and judges.
Proposals Made in the Cannabis-Reform Bill in Mexico
Although the legislative process has been distraught with a lot of delays, it has made some noticeable progress nonetheless.
Earlier in March, a joint meeting was held between the members of Justice, Health, Legislative Studies, and Public Safety Committees. During this meeting, the Mexican Senate Committees signed off the bill that made the following proposed cannabis reforms:
- There would be separate regulations on THC products that would not be applicable to hemp and CBD.
- Adults 18 or above can possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use. The possession limit is set at 28 grams, although holding up to 200 grams is still decriminalized.
- Public consumption of the drug would be legal, provided it is carried out in completely smoke-free zones.
- These adults will be allowed to grow up to 20 registered plants; provided the cumulative yield stays under 480 grams per year.
- Medical marijuana patients will be allowed to cultivate more than 20 plants upon proper request applications.
- There will be a 12% tax imposed on cannabis sales, with part of the proceeds allocated towards substance abuse treatment.
- The Mexican Institute of Regulation and Control of Cannabis would responsible for moderating and licensing marijuana businesses.
Although the legislative changes depict significant flexibility of law, advocates demand more to be done. One of their major concerns is the high level of penalties that will be imposed on individuals for rule violations. They are also pressing for ensuring equal opportunities in the industry for all.
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