Slowly but surely, one step at a time, the United States is taking greater strides than ever to becoming the western world’s largest weed-tolerant nation. Of course it still has a hell of a long way to go with only a couple of states so far having decriminalized the stuff, but at the same time it’s way better progress than is being made elsewhere…like the United Kingdom, for example.
The latest news concerns another US state which looks to be heading closer toward weed legalization than ever before. Should the new house bill, H.1561, find its way into action, Massachusetts law would be dramatically changed with the word ‘marijuana’ itself being removed from the state’s criminal code. Or at least, the vast majority of it.
What’s interesting about the situation in Massachusetts is the way in which the moves being made toward greater weed tolerance are a markedly different proposition than those put forward when Washington and Colorado made their own changes. The proposition made by Boston lawmakers would see marijuana technically brought into the same bracket as alcohol, meaning that while it would in most respects be totally legal, it would also be highly-controlled and heavily taxed.
The bill itself focuses on the way in which current marijuana laws across the United States are dated, counterproductive and of no real benefit to the people. It is estimated that by the end of the year, around 700,000 arrests will be made in the US for weed offenses in 2015 alone. The overwhelming majority of drug arrests in the US are for weed offenses, an alarming proportion of all arrests are made in relation to marijuana and it’s incredibly rare for any of these arrests to lead any kind of conviction or further action being taken. As such, advocates for the bill insist that this represents hundreds of thousands of police hours being wasted every year on pursuits that are well and truly pointless.
“… a century of criminal prohibition has failed to stop the production, distribution and use of marijuana,” the bill states, “… sustained enforcement efforts reasonably cannot be expected to accomplish that aim.”
According to those behind the bill, the new system will be “informed by the success of education and treatment — instead of arrest and incarceration — to reduce adult and adolescent use of tobacco and alcohol, two substances with far greater documented harm to public health than marijuana.”
Should the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016 go ahead as planned, it will also open the door for weed cafes, grow shops and a generally boom in the industrial hemp industry, guaranteed to generate billions for the federal government. Undoubtedly one of the most forward-thinking and generally workable initiatives outlined to date, the bill would put similar restrictions on weed as already exist for alcohol. Those selling or giving weed to minors for example would face up to 12 months in jail and a $2,000 fine, while those buying or using weed without meeting minimum age requirements would be fined $100.
On the whole, the bill’s backers insist that the move could bring about not just a more relaxed attitude to weed in general, but greater education on the subject and a much more proactive push toward sensible and beneficial weed use on the largest scale to date. Of course, critics continue to insist that the legalization of weed will bring about nothing more than chaos and anarchy the likes of which the world has never before seen, despite states like Washington and Colorado having proven the exact opposite.
Still, you can’t please all of the people all of the time, can you?