Medical marijuana advocates have had much to cheer about recently, especially now that the U.K. has joined the growing list of nations that will allow medical treatment with marijuana. Similarly, recreational cannabis advocates have had some victories in the legal arena.
Congresspeople are writing op-ed pieces in favor of legalizing cannabis, a workgroup was formed in New York to craft legislation for the legalization of marijuana, and on the international front, a former Soviet country ruled in favor of recreational pot. Here is a roundup of some of the latest efforts to advocate for recreational cannabis in the United States and the world.
Congressman Tim Ryan’s Marijuana Advocacy
United States Representative Tim Ryan (R-OH13) is the latest politician to come out in support of legalizing recreational marijuana. The congressman representing Ohio wrote an op-ed piece where he expressed his support for legalizing marijuana at the federal level. Following in the steps of other politicians who have taken a pro-pot stance, Representative Ryan criticized the impact that current cannabis laws have on society. He pointed out the impact that the laws have had on Ohio and specifically, the district he represents.
The Buckeye state has made some movement as far as marijuana is concerned. They finally rolled out their medical marijuana program although it continues to experience many setbacks and delays. Cultivators have been given the green light to grow, but cannabis manufacturing businesses are waiting for the state to announce who will be awarded a license to operate. On the recreational cannabis side, there are groups advocating to lift marijuana prohibition. In 2015, there was an initiative towards cannabis legalization, but it failed to make the ballot.
Representative Ryan, who serves as the co-chair of the House Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery Caucus, has not always been in favor of legalization. In fact, he was against making marijuana legal. According to his op-ed piece, he changed his position because he saw the impact marijuana convictions had on families. Some believe that this shift could also come from political aspirations for 2020.
Governor Cuomo’s Cannabis Reversal
Governor Andrew Cuomo is moving full steam ahead on legalizing recreational marijuana in New York. Last week, he created a panel tasked with developing legislation for legalizing recreational cannabis. The group is comprised of individuals from a variety of backgrounds including academia, law enforcement, and Cuomo's own administration.
This news comes on the heels of New York’s Department of Health releasing a report indicating that legalization of recreational marijuana would offer the state more positive effects versus negative. Part of Governor Cuomo’s effort comes from the potential for more tax revenue. Some estimates have the state earning more than $675 million in the first year.
Another reason why the Governor, a long opponent of cannabis legalization, may have changed his mind on marijuana could be the pressure from fellow Democrat and gubernatorial primary rival Cynthia Nixon. Since joining the race for the state's top office, Nixon has put significant pressure on Governor Cuomo's policies-especially when it comes to marijuana. In recent months we have seen the Governor move at lightning speed to change laws.
The legislation is slated to be available in January for New York lawmakers to deliberate. Language about expunging marijuana criminal convictions is expected to be included in the bill.
Former Soviet State To Allow Cannabis Consumption
Georgia just became the first country who was a part of the former Soviet Union to legalize recreational marijuana use. The country’s constitutional court ruled that consumption of marijuana would only be a punishable offense if the person harmed a third party while using. The court has been very favorable to pot legalization efforts. In November, they decriminalized marijuana use in the eastern European nation.
The timing of the court’s ruling may complicate things for Georgia as they try to warm their relationship with Russia, a country they went to war with ten years ago. Russia is strongly against legalizing marijuana. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released stern statements criticizing Canada’s announcement that the nation planned to legalize recreational marijuana in the fall of 2018. Some officials in Georgia take a similar stance as the Russians. The chair of Georgia’s Health Committee in Parliament is also not a fan of legalizing recreational marijuana. He believes that it should only be legal for medical purposes.
The court’s ruling does not signal that the country is creating a recreational program any time soon. Persons planning to grow or sell weed may want to think again because those are not covered by the ruling, and the could face punishment.