Marijuana growing in California. Photo by Ryan Lange on Unsplash
My home state, Oklahoma, rejected fully legal marijuana in an election Tuesday. (I live in Ohio, but lived in Oklahoma for most of my life.)
Oklahoma is kind of peculiar case, so the election is a bit hard to read. Medical marijuana in Oklahoma is so wide open, it amounts to de facto legalization. No one is denied a medical marijuana card (as opposed to Ohio for example, where only a short list of dire ailments such as cancer qualify for one). If you have never been to Oklahoma, you would not believe the number of medical marijuana businesses in the state. When I go home, I see many more marijuana shops than I see in states where it's legal. I can see where some voters might wonder why even more shops were needed.
Oklahoma is a weird state where codified hypocrisy is apparently the favored stance. When I was young, many alcoholic drinks were banned in bars and restaurants, although alcohol has never been hard to obtain. The laws finally changed, although there was an element of truth to the saying of Will Rogers, an Oklahoma native, that Oklahomans would vote dry so long as they could stagger to the polls. Las Vegas style gambling is banned in Oklahoma, yet the state is filled with Native American gambling casinos.
Still, as the New York Times story on the election points out, the vote in Oklahoma is part of a disturbing recent trend: "With the vote, Oklahoma joined a number of conservative states whose voters have recently decided against recreational marijuana legalization. Though Missouri approved a state constitutional amendment to allow for recreational marijuana in November, voters in other conservative states, including Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota, rejected similar proposals."
I liked it better when proposals to legalize marijuana always seemed to win.
Marijuana is fully legal in 21 states, which means it remains illegal for full adult use in 29, although some of those have some form of medical marijuana. The holdouts are mostly concentrated in the deep South and the Great Plains. It's really only in the former Confederacy where many people can't drive a reasonable distance to a state with legal weed. Virginia is the only Confederate state where it is legal.
So, in other words, while there have been victories, the war on drugs still largely has a hold in the U.S., where there are more deaths from drug overdoses than ever. At Reason magazine, Jacob Sullum has once again attempted to carefully explain why the war on drugs is largely responsible for the huge number of deaths. It appears that not many people are listening.
You can also read Sullum's take on the Oklahoma vote.
UPDATE: I got an email from NORML today, which said that legalization is advancing in Hawaii, Delaware and Minnesota. So legalization is still advancing in the U.S, the group claims.
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