Thirty-seven States Enacted Cannabis Reform, Wisconsin Is Not Among Them
Green state have legalized marijuana, blue states have enacted partial reform, and red states have kept marijuana illegal.
The clock is ticking, Wisconsin. When Virginia decriminalized possession of marijuana on Wednesday, July 1, it became the 26th state to enact partial cannabis reform. Add to that the 11 states (and the District of Columbia) that fully legalized marijuana, and Wisconsin ends up on the short list of 13 states that haven’t agreed on cannabis reform.
Cannabis legality by state. D=Decriminalized. M=Medical use only.
How Far We’ve Come
Just 10 years ago, adult-use marijuana wasn’t legal anywhere, and legalizing the “devil’s lettuce” seemed like a herculean task. Legalization was kickstarted in November 2012, when Colorado and Washington voters simultaneously chose that path. Almost every year since has seen more states following their example by legalizing pot through ballot measures.
In 2018, for the first time, Vermont chose to (partially) legalize recreational marijuana through legislative action. On January 1, 2020, Illinois made the bold move to fully legalize it through the state legislature, adding social justice measures and reparations in an all-encompassing bill that went farther than any cannabis reform before it.
Cannabis was initially made illegal in 1937, and prohibition was maintained until 2012. The 2010s saw an astounding surge of support for cannabis, quickly unraveling 75 years of prohibition, with each initiative being more daring than the last. Since the Shepherd Express started chronicling the advancement of cannabis reform two years ago, eight states have enacted significant reforms, up to and including full legalization.
Many states that currently only enacted partial reform, be it decriminalization or legalizing only medical marijuana, are looking into further changes. Virginia, New Mexico, New York and New Jersey are only a few of the states that are looking into complete legalization in the immediate future.
Public support has been skyrocketing: In 2010, only 44% of Americans were in favor of legalizing marijuana, up from 23% in the 1990s. Today, 66% of Americans want legal weed.
This is such powerful momentum that anyone who has been paying attention can say it for certain: The march for progress includes legal marijuana. It will happen, that is inevitable. We’ve already come so far, and progress has been accelerating. What remains to be seen, now, is how fast it will happen and who will be left behind.
Wisconsin, you don’t want to be left behind. History will not remember prohibitionists kindly.
What Can We Learn from Opponents to Reform?
The first and most obvious commonality between states that were averse to reform is that every single one of them votes Republican. Their voting record goes from Georgia, where Donald Trump obtained 51% of votes in the last presidential election, to Wyoming, where 70% of expressed votes went to Trump.
As can be expected, almost every state where cannabis is now legal voted—often overwhelmingly—for the Democratic candidate in 2016. Two notable exceptions: Alaska, where Trump won with 53%, and Michigan, where both Trump and Clinton had a near-tie at 47%.
Comparing the political map of the United States with the map of cannabis reform, we can notice that no left-leaning state chose to maintain cannabis prohibition. Only states in so-called “Trump country” chose to keep marijuana illegal. Interestingly, most Republican-leaning states still enacted at least partial marijuana reform.
Voting records during the 2016 presidential election, the red states voted Republican and the blue states voted Democrat.
Looking into demographic data for these states shows that neither age nor rurality correlate with opposition to cannabis reform. Among the 10 oldest states, two have fully legalized marijuana, seven have enacted partial reform, and only one—South Carolina—maintains prohibition. Similarly, the two most rural states, Vermont and Maine, both legalized weed, and only three of the 10 most rural states kept it illegal.
What the states that refuse cannabis reform have in common is that they are scarcely populated, with the exception of Texas and, to an extent, Georgia. They also tend to be significantly more white than the states that accepted reform, which ties into the fact that black Americans are far more likely to be arrested for minor marijuana offenses. These states also tend to be heavily segregated, with the three most segregated states—Wisconsin, Iowa and South Dakota—all opposing reform.
Marijuana was made illegal due to racism in the first place, as a tool to imprison racial minorities and disrupt civil rights movements. Its modern name, “marijuana,” was inventedto spread fear by associating the substance with Mexican immigrants. Today, prohibition is still used as a tool of repression against black and hispanic Americans, mainly by the Republican Party.
The time for reform is now, and virtually every other state understood that. Wisconsin, you are the state of beer, not of prohibition. If you do not hurry up, you will miss the train of progress. It is going quite fast, and you’re among the last ones left on the platform.
To read more Cannabis Connection articles, click here.
To read more articles by Jean-Gabriel Fernandez, click here.It’s time for the Badger State to get onboard with reforming outdated marijuana laws. ]]>