It has been ages since the battle on the legalisation of marijuana has been on. There have been a number of changes and reforms that have been witnessed. From legalising medical marijuana to legalising it for recreational use, let’s see how the NY marijuana Laws along with the rest of the nation have changed and come up over the years.
November of 1996 brought along the approval of Proposition 215. This was the first legislative legalisation of medical use of marijuana at the state level. Since then, more than 30 other states have legalised medical marijuana and more than 15 states have legalised the use of Limited Access Marijuana Products.
Though the details vary by state, in general, people suffering from ailments ranging from glaucoma to social anxiety may obtain marijuana, also known as cannabis, with a physician’s order to alleviate their symptoms.
Some have applauded and others have condemned the movement toward cannabis medicalization. However, its path has unquestionably been unique in the history of American drug and medical policy.
Where It All Began
To begin with, cannabis in any form, whether medical or recreational, remains illegal under federal law. Marijuana was first regulated by the federal government in 1937
when Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act. As with the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914, Congress believed that taxing and regulating drugs, rather than outright prohibiting them, would be less vulnerable to legal challenge. As a result, the 1937 legislation was ostensibly intended to raise revenue.
Similarly to how the Harrison Act used taxation and regulation to effectively outlaw morphine, heroin, and other drugs, the Marijuana Tax Act effectively outlawed the possession of marijuana.
Congress and The Controlled Substances Act
The Controlled Substances Act, passed by Congress in 1970, established categories, or schedules, into which individual drugs were classified based on their perceived medical usefulness and potential for abuse. The most restrictive category, Schedule 1, contained drugs deemed by the federal government to have no valid medical uses and a high potential for abuse.
The Controlled Substances Act, enacted as part of Richard Nixon’s war on drugs, classified cannabis, along with heroin and LSD, as Schedule 1, owing more to Nixon’s animus toward the counterculture with which he associated marijuana than to scientific, medical, or legal opinion. Indeed, in 1972, The Shafer Commission, a Nixon-appointed investigative body, recommended that marijuana be decriminalised and thus removed from Schedule 1.
Nixon flatly refused to accept the Commission’s report. The Schedule I classification made it difficult for even physicians and scientists to obtain marijuana for research purposes. Marijuana was declared medically useless, and research access was restricted, ensuring that it would not be developed for use in medicines in accordance with standard medical, scientific, and pharmaceutical protocols.
Furthermore, the demand for medicinal marijuana did not come from the pharmaceutical or medical communities. Marijuana sold in dispensaries varies in strength and quality. Unlike other new drugs introduced to the market, it is not the result of rigorous, controlled, peer-reviewed research.
A Glimpse of Medical Marijuana
What is the impetus for legalising medical marijuana in light of federal prohibition and medical scepticism? It has largely resulted from citizen support for medical access and decriminalisation at the state level, as demonstrated by lobbying, activism, and ballot initiatives.
State interest in medical marijuana arose in the 1970s, when Oregon, Alaska, and Maine decriminalised marijuana. In 1978, New Mexico even approved a short-lived medical marijuana research programme. Given the federal government’s demonization, prohibition, and research restrictions on marijuana, it’s no surprise that popular demand and state action played a significant role in the path to legalisation.
Legalisation of Medical Marijuana
The realisation about marijuana not being the ‘Demon Weed’ was brought in by the Baby Boom generation. Through experiences and social observation, they realised that the claims of the federal government were wrong. Credible reports of cannabis providing relief for a variety of ailments and symptoms backed their thought processes.
Activist Groups like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) promoted and coordinated grass-roots efforts to legalise medical marijuana. In recent years, these efforts have even extended beyond the therapeutic uses of cannabis to successful campaigns in several states to legalize its recreational use.
Many Americans hail these efforts as the triumph of average citizens over a draconian legal system that imprisons large numbers of nonviolent drug users unnecessarily, a failed War on Drugs and an unresponsive regulatory regime that denies easily acquired relief to suffering patients.