So the biggest news story on planet Earth these days is also one that absolutely nobody in the world could have seen coming. Heck, even the man himself once went on record to say that he has no intention whatsoever of ever running for president. But here we are in late-2016 and the next president of the United States of America is…Donald Trump.
Pretty trippy, isn’t it?
But away from all that, something that millions may consider to be even more important took place this last week. And like the election of the reality TV star, it’s something that’s set to go down in history as a change the likes of which the US rarely sees in a generation. After months of frenzied lobbying and all manner of wacky tales from anti-pot camps, the states of California, Massachusetts and Nevada have voted to legalise recreational cannabis.
That’s right – the number of US states with legal recreational pot has now spiked to seven. Or at least, it will have by the beginning of January 2017. The folks over in Arizona may be slightly disappointed by the fact their own legal pot bill didn’t make it through, while we’re still waiting to find out the story for Maine.
So what this effectively means is that in the states that have given pot the green light, it will be legal for anyone over the age of 21 to grow, possess and use marijuana in moderate quantities for recreational purposes. Suffice to say, the celebrations among pro-pot campaigners have been hot and heavy, having pleaded with the government for years to take a more realistic stance on cannabis policy. The legalisation of recreational pot and growing cannabis at home effectively means the end of the illegal cannabis trade for the entire state, which will sooner or later be driven off the streets entirely.
And of course, the fact that the US cannabis industry as a whole is expected to be worth more than $22 billion by the year 2020 says all that needs to be said about tax dollar contributions.
Medical marijuana has meanwhile passed the vote in North Dakota and Florida, though in these states recreational cannabis will remain very much outside the law.
Despite the fact that authorities have spoken of the incredible potential for investing cannabis income back into the community, critics have of course reacted scathingly to the result of the vote. They have said that such an open policy on recreational cannabis represents nothing less than "reckless disregard for child health and safety", despite the fact that there is no evidence that recreational pot has a negative effect on either.
But what’s all the more significant about the vote in California is the way in which it is expected to prompt an immediate and historic rethink in the way cannabis is classified at a federal level. Nonsensical as it obviously is, cannabis still remains illegal by federal law, despite being legally available for medical use in 27 states and recreational use in seven states. This outdated classification is currently achieving nothing, other than holding the industry back and confusing the public.
As the sixth largest economy in the entire world, California’s example is one that simply cannot go overlooked by the rest of the country. If the state sets a positive example by succeeding with legal cannabis, chances are others will follow…and soon.
In the meantime, cannabis tourism is expected to change the faces of these three states once and for all, generating tens of millions of tax dollars to be used for local causes. It may have been a long time coming, but for the people of Nevada, California and Massachusetts, the wonderful world of weed will never be the same again.