On the same day that Arnab “mujhe-drugs-do” Goswami, known for vilifying marijuana use, was arrested by Maharashtra police, five states in the US voted to legalise it.
The US’ efforts to decriminalise drugs moved forward with the issue of cannabis legalisation on the ballot in five states – New Jersey, Montana, South Dakota, Arizona and Mississippi.
While New Jersey, Montana, South Dakota, Arizona voted decisively to legalise the recreational use of marijuana, the southern state of Mississippi voted in favour of approving it for medical use.
With this, the recreational use of marijuana will now be legal in 15 states across the US plus the District of Columbia (DC) while medical use is now allowed in three dozen states.
At the federal level, however, marijuana continues to be illegal and classified at the highest level – a schedule I drug.
As an election issue, Joe Biden has been a pro-legalisation candidate while the Republican party establishment has generally opposed it.
What this means is that adults over 21 in these states can legally possess up to 57 grams of marijuana (2 ounces). In fact, states like Montana, Arizona and South Dakota also allows between three and six plants to be grown per household.
The move is expected to boost US’ legal cannabis industry, estimated to be worth$13.6 billion with 340,000 jobs devoted to the handling of plants, according to New Frontier Data.
Oregon Decriminalises ‘Hard Drugs’, Signals Perspective Shift
The state of Oregon, where marijuana is already legal, became the first state to decriminalise small amounts of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs.
According to a New York Times report, the Oregon measure makes possession of small amounts of what have long been considered harder drugs a violation similar to a traffic fine. It will cease to be a crime “and no longer punishable by jail time. The law also funds drug addiction treatment from marijuana sales taxes,” The New York Times reported.
Moreover, Oregon voters also approved a measure legalising psilocybin, known as magic mushrooms, for people aged 21 and older. Proponents say this move will allow mushrooms to be used for therapeutic purposes such as treating depression and anxiety.
These move are significant as the United States moves away from treating drugs as a criminal issue to a health issue.
The passage of the measure showed that voters were eager for a new approach on drug policy to handle it as a health issue and prioritise treatment, according to Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the advocacy group Drug Policy Alliance who spoke with NYT.
An Industry Worth Billions of Dollars – Billions With a B
The US marijuana industry will generate $85 billion in sales in 2030, according to Cowen analyst Vivien Azer.
The “total addressable market” in the five states alone that voted to legalise marijuana is considered to be as large the entire Canadian cannabis market, worth a potential $5 billion to $9 billion annually, Reuters reported.
According to the report, “The momentum of the legal industry will likely remain unchanged regardless of the election outcome,” said Matt Hawkins, founder and managing partner at cannabis-focused private equity firm Entourage Effect Capital.
“As long as there is strong consumer demand, the industry will continue its upward growth trajectory and the pathway to legalisation will likely speed up regardless.”Matt Hawkins, founder and managing partner at cannabis-focused private equity firm Entourage Effect Capital.
According to a report by Investopedia, Marijuana companies raised $116.8 billion in capital in 2019, according to cannabis industry research firm Viridian Capital Advisors. However, despite phenomenal growth, the industry faces hurdles.
According to the report, most important to the US industry is also banking reform. “Big banks are currently afraid of money laundering charges they may face if they work with these businesses. Besides the difficulty getting capital, this means tremendous risks and inconvenience for companies operating in cash,” the report states.