At the time of this writing (May 2014), more than twenty states in the U.S. have already legalized marijuana in some fashion, most of them for medical marijuana purposes. Even some of the most conservative states in the country have legalized cannabis, and two states – Colorado and Washington – have gone the extra step further and legalized the recreational use of marijuana.
Minnesota and Washington D.C. were the latest to approve the medical use of the substance, bringing the total to twenty two. Among the legal states, nine have legalized medical marijuana, but only in cases of seizure disorder in children. Now, many expect even more states to follow suit with their own brands of legalization by the end of the year.
One of the most significant factors to have influenced legalization is the lobbying by parents of children afflicted with extreme cases of epilepsy. Because of the efforts of these parents and other medical marijuana advocates, lawmakers in certain states have relaxed their stances and allowed cannabis access to children with specific illnesses.
It is important to note that these laws propose providing access to cannabis products high in cannabidiol (CBDs), an ingredient which has been identified as having the most curative effect, but that doesn’t have any psychoactive effects. The cannabis-derived medications will also have much lower THC content, which is identified as the ingredient responsible for most of the psychoactive effects of cannabis.
These changes in policy herald a new period in cannabis in America, a relationship that has always been tenuous at best. As John Hudak of Brookings Institution noted, the United States is “reaching … a new era in marijuana policy”. Hudak voiced his expectation that more states – even the conservative ones – would eventually “move forward” with regard to their marijuana policies. Among the factors that Hudak attributed to the shift in policy are the increased visibility and high profile of marijuana interest groups, many of which are just now reaping the benefits of increased funding and better knowledge of the political arena.
All these developments come more than forty years after the federal government classified marijuana as an illegal substance with “no medical value”. In the years since then, numerous studies have been published that supported marijuana’s value as a therapeutic medicine. Beginning with the landmark legalization of medical marijuana in California in the 1990s, the country has begun to accept the healing potential of marijuana state by state.
To date, these states allow the administration of medical cannabis to children that have seizure disorders:
Many industry observers and socio-political analysts now predict that a number of other states may vote to approve legalization by the end of the year. In November 2014, Florida residents will vote on a ballot that may result in the legalization of medical marijuana in the state. There are also at least four states that are working toward the establishment of their own comprehensive marijuana laws, including Missouri, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.