6 Ways Cannabis Reform Efforts Continue After Legalization
A lot of people think once a state votes to legalize cannabis the finish line has been crossed. That is not at all the case. Cannabis activism is needed as much as ever after a successful legalization vote.
The battle moves from the ballot box to local governments and legislative rule-making committees. It's what I refer to as the 'second phase of legalization.'
It's important for cannabis consumers everywhere to know where to focus efforts and to stay vigilant. Below are six areas where cannabis reform efforts are still needed even after legalization.
#1) Fighting Local Cannabis Bans
Every state that has voted to legalize cannabis has seen local municipalities enact moratoriums or outright bans. Local bans are in place in parts of Washington and Colorado, and are already popping up in the states that passed legalization in 2016.
In areas that have a local ban in place, most if not all the freedoms that come with legalization are null. It's truly a slap in the face to the voters that helped pass the successful initiative.
Much can be done to combat the local bans, the first of which is putting pressure on elected officials and keeping pressure on them.
City councils and committees are the ones that put bans in place, so educating them on the benefits of legalization is vital. Many elected officials don't know that many arguments against cannabis have been long disproven.
Another thing that's important is showing up to public hearings. Members of the media and other citizens are present at the public hearings or meetings, and they need to be educated just as much as elected officials.
Writing op-eds for local media outlets is another great way to fight local bans and build support. Everything that is done to fight local bans takes tact and a tempered approach.
Fighting prohibition can be an emotional thing, but losing one's cool in front of a crowd at a public hearing or in private with an elected official does not help matters, so always keep that in mind.
#2) Pushing for Sensible DUI Laws
I do not support people driving under the influence. That includes cannabis. Cannabis can cause impairment and no one should get behind the wheel when they are impaired.
With that being said, just because someone consumes cannabis does not automatically mean that they are impaired.
Many people, myself included, are heavy users of cannabis and can consume large amounts of cannabis yet not become impaired. I, like many others, often consume cannabis for wellness purposes, not for intoxication.
Cannabis stays in the system for a long time, as long as 100 days in some cases. It's preposterous to think that someone would be unfit to operate a motor vehicle simply because they consumed cannabis 100 days ago.
DUI laws specific to cannabis are a hot topic in state legislatures, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. It's vital that cannabis activists fight for sensible DUI laws that do not include “per se THC limits.”
Per se THC limits like those found in Colorado and Washington are not based on science, and as such, result in a lot of cases being dis-affirmed. But they are only dis-affirmed after a lot of effort on the part of the falsely accused.
#3) Fighting for Fair Industry Rules and Regulations
In many ways the legal cannabis industry is booming in the parts of America that allow it. Colorado sold over one billion dollars’ worth of cannabis in the first 10 months of this year.
It is estimated that Washington State will sell over 2.4 billion dollars’ worth of cannabis annually by the year 2020. Estimates for California's cannabis industry are astronomical, with virtually no ceiling in sight.
However, there's a lot of hurdles and hindrances that plague the industry. Industry members that are built around business models that 'touch the plant' are subject to unfair treatment from banks and the IRS.
Currently in Oregon over-regulation is hindering the industry, so much so that an economist has estimated that on average it's costing cannabis growers, processors, and retailers $20,000 each per month in lost revenue.
Industry regulations involve a lot of moving parts, and are constantly evolving. Cannabis consumers and industry members have an opportunity (and an obligation) to help ensure that those regulations are favorable to the industry so that the cannabis industry can be given a fair chance.
It's important that industry members and consumers unite their voices as much as possible to ensure the greatest level of respect.
A fractured base with a bunch of competing voices almost always results in the white noise drowning out the voices of reason and logic when it comes to pushing for fair industry rules and regulations.
#4) Allowing Social Use
The rally cry of most successful cannabis legalization initiatives was 'regulate cannabis like alcohol.' Alcohol use is widely accepted in many public venues that are open to people 21 and over, yet cannabis consumption in private business settings is prohibited everywhere.
This is a problem for locals, but it's especially problematic for tourists that are visiting legal states. They can make a legal purchase, possess the cannabis legally, and in theory consume the cannabis legally, but only in private.
Most hotels do not permit cannabis consumption on site except in edible form, created a de facto ban on cannabis for many tourists.
It also creates a big problem for people that are homeless. Many homeless people have been on the receiving end of a public consumption citation in legal states, putting them back in the grips of prohibition. That's unfair.
Denver passed a limited social use initiative during the 2016 election. Parts of the initiative have been rendered void because of state liquor laws, but I still expect other initiative efforts to pop up in legal states and I'm hopeful that they are victorious.
#5) Ensuring Employee Rights for Cannabis Consumers
Cannabis may be legal in many parts of America now, but that's not to say that employers have to allow cannabis consumption.
All employers have to do is rely on federal law and a growing amount of case law to terminate employment when someone fails a drug test, and there's little to nothing that cannabis consumers can do about it.
Reform has to come one company at a time. Companies need to be educated on the benefits of going to a 'just cause' form of workplace drug testing versus an arbitrary mandatory drug testing policy that is invasive and harmful.
Cannabis consumers can be very good employees. Many cannabis consumers are very successful, professional people with desirable talents and skill sets. They should be measured by their abilities and dedication, not be discriminated by the amount of THC they have in their system.
#6) Fighting for Tenants' Rights
Just as someone can be fired for consuming cannabis, so to can someone be kicked out of their rental property for consuming and/or growing cannabis.
Landlords and property owners can cite federal law for grounds for eviction, provided all other processes are met and laws are followed, and there's little to nothing a cannabis consumer can do about it.
An eviction can put a huge burden on a renter. I understand that if someone is a party animal that they are not a good tenant.
However, if all a person does is consume cannabis, and causes no damage to the rental property whatsoever, then I think that an eviction is unwarranted and there should be laws to protect the tenant.
It could be awhile before reform is achieved in this area, as there are a lot of hurdles that would have to be overcome, but it's a worthwhile pursuit for sure.
In the meantime cannabis consumers will have to continue to look for '420 friendly' listings and pay a premium as best they can. But hopefully in the meantime they are educating rental companies and landlords and contacting their elected officials.
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Have you ever been discriminated against for being a cannabis consumer?