January 1, 2018 marked an extremely important day in cannabis liberation: Californians were permitted to legally purchase marijuana for recreational use. Vox’s coverage on this momentous occasion includes a li’l history:
This all goes back to California’s successful 2016 ballot initiative, in which 57 percent of the state’s voters elected to fully legalize marijuana. At that point, California became by far the biggest state to legalize pot.
Until Election Day 2016, only four relatively small states had done so: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. Altogether, these states hold more than 17 million people, and their cumulative annual economic value totals around $1 trillion. In comparison, California alone is home to more than 39 million people and is worth around $2.5 trillion — more than twice as populous and wealthy as all the previous legal pot states combined.
This size matters. While the previous legal pot states had relatively small economies and, therefore, relatively small marijuana industries, California is a behemoth. GreenWave Advisors, a cannabis financial analyst, estimated that California’s industry could be worth $5.1 billion in 2018. One report from researchers at the investment bank Cowen estimated that legalization in California alone would triple the size of the nation’s legal pot industry within a decade.
This will lead to a massive multibillion-dollar industry that will seek to expand and grow, just as other markets do. And as far as the polling shows, California is not an outlier — and the public is on board with legalization’s expansion.
While this article suggests a domino effect of prohibition repeal, another recent report indicates something that could lead to the contrary. After 4 days of recreational freedom, the Associated Press issued a story that’s bound to trigger more than a few nervous gulps.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded an Obama-era policy that paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country, creating new confusion about enforcement and use just three days after a new legalization law went into effect in California.”
“[Sessions] announced the change Thursday. Instead of the previous lenient-federal-enforcement policy, Sessions’ new stance will instead let federal prosecutors where marijuana is legal decide how aggressively to enforce longstanding federal law prohibiting it.”
“Marijuana advocates quickly condemned Sessions’ move as a return to outdated drug-war policies that unduly affected minorities. Sessions ‘wants to maintain a system that has led to tremendous injustice … and that has wasted federal resources on a huge scale,’ said Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. ‘If Sessions thinks that makes sense in terms of prosecutorial priorities, he is in a very bizarre ideological state, or a deeply problematic one.’”
All signs indicate that the arch-racist department head is embarking upon an uphill battle on the matter.
“Threats of a federal crackdown have united liberals who object to the human costs of a war on pot with conservatives who see it as a states’ rights issue. Some in law enforcement support a tougher approach, but a bipartisan group of senators in March urged Sessions to uphold existing marijuana policy. Others in Congress have been seeking ways to protect and promote legal pot businesses,” the report continues.
“Sessions’ plan drew immediate strong objection from Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, one of eight states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Gardner said in a tweet that the Justice Department ‘has trampled on the will of the voters’ in Colorado and other states. He said the action would contradict what Sessions had told him before the attorney general was confirmed and that he was prepared ‘to take all steps necessary’ to fight the step including holding up the confirmation of Justice Department nominees.”
The success of recreational cannabis in California is vital for the movement to end prohibition for the entire nation. Despite attempts to thwart progress, a huge step forward has been made. There’s no turning back now.