While it is common for recreational marijuana users to celebrate April 20 as an unofficial day for smoking (420 was the police code for marijuana in California decades ago), it seems that 4/20 may no longer be an occasion for rebellion or secrecy anymore. A number of headlines from the past year suggest that marijuana usage — both medical and recreational — could eventually become more mainstream.
A society that is more accepting of marijuana would be incredibly positive for users, especially patients who depend on medical marijuana.
Here are five developments from the past year that could mean a bright future for pot in America.
1. The DEA might move marijuana to a different drug schedule.
In April, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced that it might downgrade marijuana from the list of Schedule 1 controlled substances, which is usually reserved for the most dangerous drugs. This might be good news for people who depend on cannabis for medicinal purposes because it would show that the DEA believes the drug has medical applications. It might also be good news for the estimated hundreds of thousands of people arrested every year for simple marijuana possession. This change of classification could be decided within the next three months.
2. The White House brought us closer to future research on medical marijuana.
In June 2015, the Obama administration took a gigantic step towards legitimizing medical marijuana's applications when they lifted a requirement for the Public Health Service to review research projects. This move made it simpler for the Office of National Drug Control Policy to study medical cannabis. More federal scientific research into marijuana will help the 1.2 million patients who currently use it, as well as future patients who might need it.
3. A majority of Americans now support legal marijuana.
A 2015 Gallup poll discovered that 58 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. That is the highest public support of the drug since the poll began in 1969. It also marks the third year in a row that a majority of people supported legalization. Over 70 percent of young adults (18- to 34-year-olds) favor it.
4. 24 states have legalized medical marijuana — including one recent addition.
Nearly half of all states, plus the District of Columbia, now have laws legalizing medical marijuana. That includes Pennsylvania, which just passed a bill to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes a few days ago. It has been estimated that if every state had legal medical marijuana, an additional 1.3 million patients would benefit from it. Obviously, we still have a ways to go, but this recent news is encouraging.
5. Up to 20 states could legalize some form of weed in 2016.
Citizens in up to 20 states could vote on ballot initiatives in 2016 to legalize some form of marijuana. Marijuana initiatives might appear on the ballot in California, Florida, Arizona and Massachusetts, among others. States like Colorado, which have already legalized recreational marijuana, are reaping the benefits, reportedly including a decrease in crime and an increase in tax revenue to help fund schools and infrastructure projects.
Cover image via Shutterstock.