A Quick History of Legal Cannabis: How We Got Here
The next time you take a hit off that beautiful Ignite vape and taste the flavorful burst of terps, remember it wasn’t always this way. Sadly, for many, it’s still not. So how did we get where we are? How did pot go from being the subject of crazy films like Reefer Madness to the subject of desire in Cheech & Chong movies to a multi-million dollar industry? Let’s dive in.
20 years ago, cannabis was illegal in the US, so the first steps to legalization had to be in the form of decriminalization. Oregon was the first to step up in 1973 (take a bow, Oregonians). Twelve more states decriminalized it over the next fifteen years, but it was still far from legal.
Legalization is important because that doesn’t just allow us to smoke and consume it – it allows people to grow and sell it, too. But that took until 1996 to make serious headway.
1996 was important for two states: (1) California, which legalized medical marijuana by passing Prop 215, and (2) Arizona, which passed a ballot initiative to legalize it – but was worded incorrectly. Lesson here: don’t try writing laws when you’re stoned.
1998 saw the ball rolling even further: Alaska, Washington, and Oregon each passed their own legal medical marijuana laws. The District of Columbia also passed a bill letting seriously ill people to have access to medical marijuana but Congress voted to stop it. Thanks, Congress. For nothing.
1999 saw two more states allowing medical marijuana; stand up and wave, Alaska and Maine.
The new century kicked off with a series of more states passing legal medical marijuana initiatives. That decade saw Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Montana, Vermont, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Michigan, New Jersey all throw their hats into the ring. And just after he took office, President Obama told federal prosecutors to stop prosecuting people who were distributing medical marijuana in states where it was legal. Thanks, man!
But it was Maine, in 2009, that was the first to allow non-profit CBD dispensaries along with ID cards to stop patients from being arrested by police who were stuck in the 1950s.
The Now Years
Well just what the hell are we supposed to call this decade anyway? The Teenies? Ugh never mind... Anyway, the decade we are currently living in has seen legalization increase in leaps and bounds. More and more states authorized medical marijuana until 2014 when Alaska, Oregon, and DC went all in and legalized recreational cannabis. About damn time!
Here in sunny California, we got our recreational Mary Jane in 2016 (where we’ve been lit ever since) as did Massachusetts and Nevada. More states have been passing medical marijuana laws – we’re now up to 30 states. And now, you can grow hemp in the United States! (Yes!). And if you’re wondering “is marijuana the same as hemp”, for our purposes it pretty much is, with one major exception.
In 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama’s 2013 Cole Law that told federal prosecutors to limit intervention in states that legalized cannabis. Sigh. But hopefully that will change back again when folks become better educated.
These days, cannabis is a thriving business and only growing. Ignite, for example, is available not just online but also in dozens of dispensaries across California and Nevada.
That leaves us with the question: What’s next? With more legalization on the horizon, the good times- and possibilities- are endless.