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Federal Cannabis Legalization: (When) Will It Happen?

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As usual, the process towards full legalization is going slower than you might think, and that means full acceptance is even further from the horizon. Yes, you may have finally convinced your grandma to take some fat rips with you, but the rest of the bingo hall is still iffy on the subject. Though trends look good for the future, there’s little hope for now thanks to the notorious speed of congress and the perceived lack of urgency by the executive branch.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t progress being made. A petition to the White House has more than 40,000 signatures, and there’s a resolution being considered, H.R.1014 – Marijuana Tax Revenue Act of 2015, which would “[amend] the Internal Revenue Code to impose an excise tax on: (1) the sale of marijuana by producers or importers, and (2) each person who is engaged in a marijuana enterprise.” The bill defines “marijuana enterprise” as anyone involved in marijuana production and distribution, which could potentially lead to an open, regulated market for cannabis in the United States. Chances of approval may be slim, but it at least sends a much-needed message of progress to supporters of legalization.

Some are citing the current field of presidential candidates as the primary reason legalization won’t happen until at least 2020. With questions about Bernie Sanders’ pot position and relatively inconsequential public support for Rand Paul, the strongest potential advocates are outside chances at best, meaning there won’t be a pro-legalization president elected in 2016. However, with growing education, increased political recognition and increased vocalization among level-headed supporters, there’s nothing to say that the actions, if not the opinion, of the next president in office can’t be swayed in favor of tolerance.

We surely don’t need to explain the potential positives of cannabis legalization here, but remember that you shouldn’t stay quiet just because you’ve already got the facts. The main reason federal legalization – and thus widespread tolerance – isn’t happening quicker is a general lack of knowledge. By now, most people know cannabis won’t kill you, they recognize its many health benefits and they understand that it doesn’t pose an endemic risk to the general population. However, many do not quite grasp the full extent of the harm caused by prohibition; from denial of safe access to medicine to life-destroying incarceration on benign charges, the effects of cannabis prohibition ripple throughout society, and not much good can be said of it.

There’s no doubt that change is coming, but it may take a while to fully set in. Even after cannabis legalization, the struggle for full tolerance – from healthcare and employment policies to basic social acceptance – only means that much more time until we’re all living in a truly cannabis-neutral world. Stay patient, inform those who will listen and maybe catch a flight to Cambodia while you’re waiting.