There have been plenty of success stories for marijuana in the United States this year. More and more states loosen their laws to allow for medical use. And, of course, there have been plenty of studies to reinforce its abilities as a drug that can help sufferers of cancer and other illnesses. But, according to several recent reports, there is a lot more to come during 2016.
According to an article in Forbes.com, the successes will focus on one salient fact. Legalization at Federal level will be a major point in the presidential election. The CARERS Act will see Congress complete a piece of legislation that will allow all states to legalize marijuana. The plan is to change the classification of marijuana to a schedule II drug. This will allow banks to start working with sellers and growers, and take away any barriers to research.
There are plenty of other bills likely to pass through Congress, too – all of which help move the country forward on this hot topic. There will be legislation to offer protection to citizens of Native American reservations who grow and sell the drug. And, there will also be bills that offer pardons to groups of marijuana offenders.
The bills have support from some scientific and sociological studies that have been released during 2015. According to the JAMA Psychiatry journal, use of marijuana has more than doubled between 2001 and 2013. This is thanks to the changes in drug laws and more relaxed attitudes to consumption. Another report suggests that almost 6% of college students smoke marijuana almost every day. That’s a larger percentage than those that smoke cigarettes daily.
New research into the health benefits of the drug has also shone a new light on the medical use of marijuana. The University of Bristol in the United Kingdom – where the drug is still illegal – came to a positive conclusion. According to the British researchers, medical marijuana can offer pain relief for many conditions. These include muscle spasms, cancer-related pain, and pain from conditions such as multiple sclerosis.
However, there have also been studies that have shown a negative impact on marijuana consumption. Namely, in the brains of younger people. First of all, there are more cases of young children suffering from accidental exposure to the drug than ever before. Children younger than three have gotten hold of their parents stash, and eaten them. Either in solid form or marijuana cookies and brownies. Many states do not allow marijuana sold in food form, but there are several that do, including Colorado, Washington, and Alaska.
More research into marijuana and the teenage brain has also come to a worrying conclusion. A report in the JAMA Psychiatry journal, again, compared brain scans of teenage boys. Some had smoked pot, others had not, and there were some interesting results. According to the results, teenage pot smokers are more likely to suffer from thinning cortexes. This might affect brain development at this young age. However, given that the legal age to buy and consume pot in all states is 21, it seems that this base is covered by current regulation. The problems will arise, of course, when under-age kids get hold of marijuana products via the black market.
The dangers of marijuana have been overblown for some time, however – as most people already know. A report in Live Science earlier this year makes for interesting reading. Marijuana is 100 times safer than everyone’s favorite drug of choice, alcohol. Nicotine, heroin, and cocaine are also much more dangerous to the human body and brain than pot.
However, despite the changes and relaxation of many marijuana laws in the country, there are still question marks. Take California, for example – the trailblazer state when it comes to legalization of pot. According to the LA Times, in the year since laws were lifted at a federal level, there are still plenty of raids taking place, in particular, counties. While the number of raids has fallen, there are many cases of federal prosecutors taking action in court. The landscape is certainly a murky one. And, this shows the need for a more thorough investigation at the national level to see if those at the top of the tree can finally agree on a course of action.
However, the United States is slowly catching up with some of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to legalization. In most countries, of course, it is still a legal offense. But, in others, there is more relaxation about using pot for medical – and recreational – purposes.
Possession of small amounts of marijuana is legal in several countries. These include Bangladesh, Colombia, Spain, and Uruguay. However, in countries such as Portugal, Mexico, Italy and India, pot is decriminalized for personal use. Medical marijuana is also legal in Germany if you have permission from the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices.
There’s no doubt that the worldwide push for marijuana legalization is having an effect. In the United States alone, Arizona, California, Maine. Massachusetts, Michigan, and Nevada are expected to implement initiatives during 2016. And, there is a surge of public opinion in Missouri, Wyoming, Montana, and Mississippi that could see changes in the next few years. And, plenty of other countries around the world are considering changing their laws, too. Head over to The Cheat Sheet for a list of ten counties picking up the flag for relaxation in marijuana law.
So, there is plenty going on in the world – and the United States – that could add up to a big year for marijuana advocates. While most laws will introduce relaxation for medical marijuana, it’s the effects of the possession that will be felt the most. That’s a lot of places freed up from the nation’s prisons, and more space to keep criminals that do harm people. Marijuana lovers have a long way to go, of course. But, it seems that 2016 will go a long way in taking a step in the right direction.