2016 Set to be Watershed Year in Marijuana Legalization Efforts
While all eyes are focused on the 2016 U.S. presidential election, votes in five states could start a nationwide avalanche regarding marijuana legalization.
On Election Day, voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine, Arizona, and Nevada will vote on whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Although legalization would end marijuana users’ exposure to potential jail time and criminal penalties, it’s important to note that employers may still prohibit the use of marijuana and require employees to pass a drug test.
Polls show that marijuana legalization is likely to pass in California, Massachusetts, and Maine. Arizona and Nevada voters are divided on the issue, and the outcome is less certain there.
Should voters approve recreational use of marijuana in the five states where it is on the ballot, the number of states allowing recreational use of the drug will increase to nine and nearly a quarter of the U.S. population will have access to legal recreational pot. Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington have already legalized recreational marijuana. The District of Columbia also allows recreational use of marijuana.
Twenty-one states currently have a medicinal-use-only policy, including:
- New Mexico
- New York
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
- New Hampshire
Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota will vote on medical marijuana laws this November. Montana will vote on liberalizing its current medicinal marijuana policies. With about half the country having access to some form of marijuana, and a greater number having access to recreational use, the public debate around the drug is tilting in the pro-pot forces’ favor. Further legalization will only accelerate that trend.
The Colorado Experience
Perhaps the best case for marijuana legalization comes from Colorado, which voted to legalize recreational use in 2012, 12 years after the state legalized medicinal marijuana in 2000. Under the law, adults aged 21 years or older can grow up to six plants, can possess all the marijuana they grow from these plants so long as it remains locked up, and can travel with up to an ounce of marijuana. The law also makes provisions for the licensure of commercial growing and selling operations.
Since recreational marijuana was legalized, it has created thousands of jobs and added billions to the state economy. In 2015, marijuana created more than 18,000 jobs and added $2.4 billion to the Colorado economy. Tax revenues from the marijuana industry in Colorado are expected to hit $94 million by the end of 2016.
While there has been some increase in crime and negative health outcomes attributed to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, its total impact has been small, and public programs are working to mitigate possible harms caused by legalization.
In these challenging times, it is little wonder that many states with struggling economies and weak tax revenues are looking toward Colorado’s experiment with marijuana legalization as a possible solution for their woes.
As California Goes …
A yes vote for the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes in California could have a larger impact on the nationwide policy debate concerning the drug than votes in all the other states combined. California has a population of 38.8 million people and a $2.46 trillion economy. If California were an independent nation, its economy would be the sixth largest in the world, with a gross domestic product larger than that of countries such as France and India.
Experts estimate that the market for recreational and medicinal marijuana will grow from $7 billion this year to $22 billion in four years if California, which already allows medicinal marijuana, votes to legalize recreational use.
The vast number of legal recreational users and the money they will spend on marijuana will place increasing pressure on the federal government to decriminalize marijuana. While states have legalized marijuana, the drug remains illegal under federal law. The federal government has taken a largely hands-off approach in states that have legalized marijuana, with a few notable exceptions.
The murky legal status of marijuana makes banks and financial institutions reluctant to do business with companies involved in the sale of marijuana. This makes a variety of financial transactions, including business loans and even obtaining a checking account, difficult for entrepreneurs involved in the marijuana trade. With millions of legal users and billions of dollars entering the marketplace, legalization in California could push federal authorities to end their insistence that marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.
Enthusiasm for legalizing marijuana is growing among Americans. In 2015, a Gallup Poll found that 58 percent of people it surveyed support legalizing pot – the highest percentage of supporters ever in the 46 years Gallup has polled on the issue. This was the third year in a row that supporters of legalization outnumbered supporters of marijuana’s current status. By contrast, in 1969, just 12 percent of Americans thought marijuana should be legal.
The two biggest dividing lines regarding the legal status of pot are age and party identification. Younger Americans support legalization by a 71-29 percent margin. Just 35 percent of senior citizens support legalized marijuana.
About 65 percent of Democrats support legalization, while just 35 percent of Republicans do. Sixty-two percent of Independents support legalized pot.
Employer Drug Tests
As mentioned before, even if recreational marijuana use is legalized, employers may continue to prohibit marijuana use among their employees and engage in drug testing to determine whether their workers use marijuana. Most employers subject employees to a pre-employment drug screening to determine whether employees use marijuana or other illegal drugs. According to LA Weekly, the Society for Human Resource Management reports that 78 percent of employers it surveyed conduct drug testing on some portion of their workforce. About 98 percent of the transportation industry conducts some form of drug testing, as required by safety laws.
After hiring an employee, the majority of employers do not test on a regular basis, but may impose random drug screens or require employees to submit to drug testing if they are involved in an on-the-job accident. For marijuana users who fear employer or insurer drug tests, there are ways to pass these tests.
The most obvious and effective means of passing a marijuana test is to abstain from use. People who know they have an upcoming drug test can ensure they pass by learning what type of drug test they will undergo and abstaining from marijuana use for the appropriate period of time. For example, the typical urine drug test can detect marijuana use for up to seven days if you’re an infrequent user of marijuana and up to 100 days if you’re a regular user. Hair tests can detect marijuana for regular users months after their last use.
If you’re subject to a surprise marijuana test, there are products that can quickly purge your system of the drug. ClearTest offers products and information intended to help clients pass a drug test, whether it’s a hair drug test, saliva drug test, or a urine drug test. ClearTest has detox drinks, mouthwashes, gums, and shampoos all designed to remove vestiges of drug use from clients’ bodies so they can successfully pass drug tests.
Marijuana stays in the human body much longer than other drugs such as cocaine or prescription pills, and it requires the greatest effort to eliminate from the human body, especially among frequent users. Substances present in marijuana bind to fat cells in the body, which is why marijuana takes so long to purge from the body.
While marijuana legalization and normalization are closer to being a reality than ever before, the fact remains that our employers and insurers will still penalize many citizens for marijuana use – even if it’s legal. ClearTest can help users of this harmless and increasingly legal drug avoid unfair persecution.
ClearTest offers products and information intended to help clients pass a drug test