Cannabis legalisation for recreational, as well as medical, use is spreading across the states
It’s hardly surprising that people aren’t generally viewing the elections on Tuesday as a step forward for liberty – unless you happen to own a red baseball-cap with a certain slogan on it. Critics, observers, and barstool-pundits like myself have all pointed out that this year’s US presidential race has been the most nasty, gloomy, and divisive in modern history.
The absence of a real small-government candidate committed to rolling back the frontiers of the state has made this election more depressing to libertarian-minded individuals like myself. If I had been unlucky enough to have the right to vote in their election this year, I would have been stumped. Maybe Johnson; then again, maybe not. As a man who likes a flutter, and an underdog even more, I won some good money from the revolt led by Trump – so that made me feel a bit better.
Despite all the fear and anger being expressed across the globe, a massive leap forward for freedom took place on Tuesday. Most people outside of America didn’t notice, but several states held ballots on legalising marijuana. Some in a medicinal capacity; some boldly went for a recreational capacity. After Tuesday, 1 in 5 Americans live in a state where marijuana is legal for recreational use. California, Nevada, and Massachusetts all voted to legalise the recreational use of marijuana. As if that game changing legal earthquake wasn’t enough, North Dakota, Arkansas, and even Florida voted to legalise pot for medicinal use. Whilst it looked like America had been painted red, it had actually been painted green.
This is great news for anyone who values individual sovereignty and autonomy, or is just partial to a toke on the devil’s lettuce. It is now becoming undeniable; cannabis legalisation is becoming a rolling stone movement, seemingly unstoppable. States like California were, on reflection, simply a matter of time. The unquestionably blue liberal state has an infamous cannabis culture known the all over the world, and the drug has been decriminalised in the state for several years.
It is states like Florida that makes Tuesday’s results particularly exciting. Florida is considered a socially conservative state, and this year it chose to give its mighty electoral power to The Donald. Whilst the presidential ballot in the state was cringingly close, the pot vote was not. Constitutional amendments like this require a 60% super majority to pass in Florida. Considering that only a few years ago a similar ballot had failed, that it passed this time is evidence that the civil liberty minded revolution that began in Colorado in 2012 has gained momentum. It also speaks volumes about who is now behind cannabis liberalisation – it is traditionally considered a left-leaning standpoint, but that line is now being blurred, as seen in Florida.
Colorado became an internationally observed experiment; pot was put on trial for the world to see. In October 2016 alone, the State government in Colorado took $19,266,922 in tax and licencing revenues directly from cannabis. So far this year, cannabis sales are totalling well over one billion dollars in Colorado alone. Legalisation has created several flourishing and innovative industries that are putting the local economy in the Rocky Mountain State on steroids; or perhaps some really dank Sativa. The economic benefits have even, unsurprisingly, spilled over into the complimentary goods associated with cannabis; sales of chips (crisps if you speak the non-bastardised tongue) are hilariously soaring.
As if that wasn’t enough to tempt the some of the more socially conservative but economically driven states in the union, the policy has had an astounding effect on crime rates in Colorado. In 2014 Colorado noted a 2.5% drop in the crime rate per 100,000 people. Not good enough? Homicides decreased by 53% over the two years that had passed since legalisation. Organised crime in Colorado has been smashed by the policy, which has moved cannabis into a regulated but mostly free-market: undercutting and out-classing the criminal dealers and driving them out of business. The dynamic duo of capitalism and drug liberalisation has proved itself to be the answer to the gang crime epidemic that currently faces America.
It remains to be seen whether what has worked so well in Colorado will work as well in all of the 50 States, but recent adopters like Washington, Oregon and Alaska have reported similarly positive effects from legalisation. Their economies have grown, as well as their government coffers – not to mention that violent crime is dropping. Tuesday was a landmark event in the fight for legalisation in not only the USA, but also the world. No matter how much journos, Guardian readers, and sixth-form art students slag off America, it is still a cultural superpower. A successful liberal drug policy in the America will no doubt inspire policy makers the world over.
One of the beautiful things about America is a general fear and an ingrained mistrust of centralised power. The legalisation charge has been led by the individual states in the Union while the federal government has lagged behind, still adamant that cannabis is on the same level as drugs like heroin and cocaine. For anyone who is currently in mourning for the Great Republic, I would suggest removing your veil and putting on some red, white, and blue. No matter how worrying the new Executive may be, the striving and rebellious states are still championing the constitutional spirit of liberty that America was forged in. Forget about Donald Trump. The States are Making America High Again.
Nathan Friend is the Chairman of Conservatives for Liberty Wales
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty