US ‘could legalise cannabis across country’ in wake of California decriminalisation vote
The decriminalisation of recreational cannabis use in California could be a milestone towards ending the drug’s prohibition nationally, it has been suggested.
Alongside the presidential election, California will vote over whether to make recreational marijuana use legal on 8 November.
If approved, as polls suggest it will be, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) will allow adults aged over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants for personal use, the National Organisation of the Reform of Marijuana Laws explains.
Legalisation of recreational cannabis has already taken place in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, but experts believe decriminalisation in California could present a strong challenge to the federal government’s cannabis ban.
Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor of California and former mayor of San Francisco, told theNew York Times: “If we’re successful, it’s the beginning of the end of the war on marijuana.
“If California moves, it will put more pressure on Mexico and Latin America writ large to reignite a debate on legalization there.”
David Bienenstock, head of content for High Times magazine, which gives information about marijuana and psychedelic drugs, told Business Insider he viewed the California vote as a “tipping point” towards national decriminalisation.
Massachusetts and Maine also have votes over initiatives to legalise cannabis due in November, while Arizona and Nevada are set to vote on recreational marijuana next month.
Currently, the federal government and its Drug Enforcement Administration classifies cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, which are defined as having a “high potential for abuse” and are not an accepted medical treatment. Heroin is also classed as a Schedule 1 drug.
According to recent polls, the marijuana vote is likely to pass in California. Sixty per cent of Californians suggested the drug should be legal compared to 34 per cent who opposed the idea, according to Ballotpedia’s average of polls.
California is seen as a landmark state for marijuana legalisation due to its economic footing.
According to World Bank data, the state had the equivalent of the sixth largest economy in the world in 2015 and legalisation would allow the state to tap into the lucrative marijuana market.
Sales of marijuana will begin on 1 January 2018 if the vote is passed and are estimated to add an additional $1.5 billion into the marijuana market – bolstering an already thriving medicinal marijuana market.
By 2019, this figure could rise to nearly $3 billion and nearly $4 billion by 2020 if the vote passes, the Business Times reports, citing a report from New Frontier Data and ArcView Market Research.
Both the recreational and medicinal marijuana markets are predicted to swell to $22 billion in four years from $7 billion this year if California approves the legalisation, according to the Arcview Group, which links investors with cannabis companies.
“This is the vote heard round the world,” Arcview’s chief executive, Troy Dayton, told the New York Times. “What we’ve seen before has been tiny compared to what we are going to see in California.”
There has been a significant increase in the number of Americans using cannabis, rising from 21.9m in 2002 to 31.9m in 2014. The number of regular users doubled over the same period to 8.4m.