The US has a complicated relationship with cannabis. It’s still illegal at the federal level, but there are now 11 cannabis legal states where adults age 21 and older can use the plant for recreational purposes. Several of these cannabis legal states are leading by example, showing the world that it’s possible to legalize and regulate cannabis smartly, safely, and respectfully.
Illinois is one of those states. In 2019, it became the first to legalize not just the use of cannabis but also the sale and possession of it.
Cannabis Law in Illinois
Illinois’s legalization bill includes a groundbreaking criminal justice reform component. It qualifies many people to have their records expunged of qualifying cannabis-related convictions and arrests. According to a representative of the Marijuana Policy Project, residents in high-poverty and high-conviction neighborhoods will get priority when they apply to have their records cleared.
Equity was a major consideration in the development of this bill. The Illinois state legislature understood that some communities have been disproportionately impacted by laws against cannabis. Legislators hope that the new law will help to correct that imbalance.
Cannabis Law in California
Illinois isn’t the only one of the cannabis legal states to lead by example in recent years. In late 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed three cannabis bills into law. One is SB 34, which allows dispensaries to give medical cannabis to low-income patients free of charge.
California has been leading the cannabis world for a long time. In 1996, the state became the first in the nation to legalize medical cannabis. Twenty years later, the state passed Proposition 64, legalizing the drug for recreational use.
It’s hard to regulate anything well in a large state, but California has proven itself to be up for the challenge. Its Bureau of Cannabis Control is a comprehensive one-stop resource that handles dispensary licensing and educates the public on the details of medicinal and recreational cannabis use in California.
The Bureau also works closely with news outlets throughout the state to make sure that everyone has up-to-date information on cannabis use. A great example is the “Get #weedwise” campaign, which educates the public on the risks of buying cannabis from unlicensed businesses. The campaign includes messages in multiple languages and includes digital advertising so it can reach as many people as possible.
Cannabis Law in Colorado
Colorado is another state that’s proactively regulating cannabis. It legalized medicinal cannabis in 2000 and in 2012 became one of the first two states to legalize recreational use.
Colorado has been a leader in cannabis regulation since these early days of legalization. Immediately after legal cannabis use became part of the state’s constitution, Colorado’s then-governor created a task force to make sure all policy concerns were resolved before the law became active. It took a year, but this thorough approach paid off.
Colorado now has an enforcement division dedicated to helping state residents understand cannabis laws and licensing. The state recently added a new type of license that allows customers to consume, not just buy, cannabis on the company’s premises.
Regulating cannabis isn’t easy, but these cannabis legal states are showing that it’s more than just possible. When done well, it can protect and empower the population.