To date, 28 states and D.C have legalized medical marijuana (MMJ). In 1996, only one state supported MMJ legalization. What changed the minds of the public to pass the use of cannabis for medical use in these states even though it is still a federal felony to do so? What changed in our society to finally allow the use of MMJ?
The shift to the acceptance of MMJ has been steadily increasing over the past two decades as more people found it to be beneficial in treating their illnesses. Some consider it as an alternative treatment for pain management, anxiety control, anti-inflammatory relief, cancer, immune disorders, post-traumatic stress and dealing with sleeping disorders. With the prescription opiate addiction in the U.S. reaching new highs, many are looking for other methods to deal with pain management.
Perhaps, the tipping point for the acceptance of MMJ as being a legitimate method for medical treatment occurred when CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta publicly changed his opinion on marijuana. Gupta had previously denounced the drug as an outspoken pot skeptic. Yet, after researching the drug for his Weed documentary, he reversed his position.
“I am here to apologize,” he wrote on CNN’s website. “I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof.” Gupta continued saying that the DEA had no such proof. “We have been terribly misled for 70 years in the United States and I apologize my own role in that.”
With Dr. Sanjay Gupta placing his reputation and job on the line at CNN as Chief Medical Correspondent, his criticism of the government in framing marijuana as a destructive drug without appropriate research resonated with the public, further changing the negative public opinion on the use of MMJ.
The fact is that marijuana is still classified by the DEA as a schedule 1 substance, placing it in the same category as heroin. On the federal level, marijuana is still considered illegal, but the federal government has left the legalization and enforcement of the local marijuana laws to the individual states. This is a similar stance taken on the fight for legalization of marriage for gay couples, where the states took the lead on the issue, with the federal government finally accepting gay marriage as federal law.
There are still many unknowns in the cannabis industry as to how this will all play out. Will the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, repeal the stay on allowing the individual states to monitor their own marijuana business? Some say yes, yet it is highly unlikely, due to the large number of states already having legalized MMJ and the money already being spent in the industry.
The cities, counties and the states where MMJ is legal are already seeing the marijuana tax as a way to alleviate a shortfall in their government budgets to pay for the rising pensions and education costs. They are already depending on these monies to keep their governments afloat.
No, I don't see any turning back on the allowance of MMJ. It is just the beginning of a revolution, as this soon-to-be billion-dollar business will change the future of the United States economy, equivalent to the technology revolution.