Ten years ago, I would not have believed that the collective views regarding marijuana would be so different and somewhat bipartisan as they are today. Before the November 2020 election, 11 states and the District of Columbia, had already legalized recreational marijuana. Most of these states are blue, with the exception of Alaska. An additional 21 states allow medical marijuana.
Although marijuana use is still illegal under federal law, in the wake of the election, 15 states and D.C. will have legalized recreational marijuana and 35 will allow medical marijuana.
You might be surprised to learn the identity of four of these states that took action in November. Here are the four red states that approved some form of marijuana use: 1. South Dakota — Voters agreed to legalize both recreational and medical use. 2. Mississippi — Voters decided to legalize medical marijuana. 3. Arizona — Where medicinal use is already permitted, voters approved the recreational use of marijuana. Arizona’s long history of western libertarian thought had a significant impact on voters; and 4. Montana — Approved the recreational use of marijuana. What is the cause of this interest in legalizing marijuana at the state level? Here are the three main reasons:
1. Money — My grandmother told me that when I could not find the cause of why someone took an action, I should follow the money. Colorado, the first state to allow recreational use of marijuana in 2014, is often held up as the shining example of what can happen with legalization. The state has significantly benefited from increased tax income and economic activity. The coffers of the Colorado treasury are overflowing;
2. New attitudes – Many people have started to compare alcohol and marijuana. While alcohol is legal, I have handled hundreds of criminal cases where the source of death, injury, etc. was caused by the overconsumption of alcohol.
Recreational marijuana is illegal in Georgia. Yet, with the exception of drug deals that end up in shootings, which would not happen if the state, instead of criminals, regulated the distribution of the drug, I have not handled a single case where the consumption of marijuana was the source of violence.
3. Young people – People between the ages of 18-30 years old make up a very large part of the U.S. population. In general, this younger demographic believes that marijuana should be legal. Many of them also vote in elections.
Marijuana opponents are not waiting to see what state lawmakers do, if anything. They are looking toward the courts. For example, the Pennington County, South Dakota sheriff and the superintendent of the South Dakota Highway Patrol have filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the marijuana amendment. However, courts across the nation have historically been very reluctant to allow the executive branch to interfere with the legislative branch. This, and other efforts to usurp the will of the people, will likely be defeated.
What about Georgia?
I did not expect to see the rapid political changes in my home state. While controversy surrounds which presidential candidate truly won Georgia, the fact that the race was even that close paves a path to legalizing recreational use of marijuana in the near future.
As I mentioned above, this is somewhat of a nonpartisan issue. However, a larger percentage of Democrats support legalization than do Republicans. As a Republican, it pains me to say that Georgia is either at the tipping point of becoming a blue state or has already become one. The primary reason that Georgia is turning blue surrounds the changes in demographics. For the last four years, we have seen thousands of young professionals moving into our state. In general, they vote for Democrats and support the legalization of marijuana. This trend is continuing and will likely continue well into the future.
The bottom line is that big states, small states, blue states, and red states have passed marijuana legislation. This strongly suggests that eventually all 50 states, and the federal government, will legalize and regulate the use of recreational marijuana.