Marijuana Legalization
July 13, 2017
Will more states decriminalize the drug?

Legal sales of marijuana in the United States grew 7 percent between 2015 and 2016 — from $5.4 billion to $5.8 billion, according to the latest data from research firms that track the industry. While marijuana remains illegal under federal law, 26 states and the District of Columbia allow some form of marijuana use. Twenty-one states have legalized medical marijuana, eight allow both medical and recreational use and four states and the District of Columbia no longer impose jail time for possessing small amounts. While President Trump’s position on marijuana legalization is unclear, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has long opposed marijuana use and has called for reinstating mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has warned that states allowing recreational usage will see “greater enforcement” of the federal law.

Josh Genderson is CEO of Holistic Industries, one of 15 companies in Maryland that received preliminary approval last year to grow medical marijuana. (Getty Images/The Washington Post/Linda Davidson)   Josh Genderson is CEO of Holistic Industries, one of 15 companies in Maryland that received preliminary approval last year to grow medical marijuana. (Getty Images/The Washington Post/Linda Davidson)

On Jan. 20, 2017, the DC Cannabis Coalition distributed 4,200 marijuana joints to residents, tourists and visitors in town for Inauguration Day. Organizers from the coalition, a community group which represents D.C. cannabis users and growers, said the giveaway was not intended to disturb the ceremony, but to show support for federal marijuana legalization. 1 Previously, the coalition had helped pass Initiative 71, a referendum that made it legal for adults to grow and possess up to two ounces of marijuana and to give — but not sell — an even smaller amount to another adult.

Proponents of legalization say they have much to celebrate. In 2016, four states — California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada — joined four others (Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska) to legalize recreational marijuana use. And Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota legalized marijuana for medical use. 2 Backers of the California measure say it could save $100 million in law enforcement costs, and state analysts estimate it could generate more than $1 billion in sales taxes each year. 3

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