Congress continues to resist decriminalizing marijuana even as a popular crusade to legalize its use state by state may soon mean almost a quarter of Americans can smoke up at will, not including the many more who can use the drug medicinally.
This has resulted in a patchwork of state laws alongside federal ones that have put the nascent industry in legal and financial limbo.
Voters in many states disagree. Presently, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska permit the sale and consumption of social marijuana, Washington, D.C. allows its consumption but not its sale, and 25 other states have legalized its medical use.
On Election Day, many more may follow their lead. Voters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will decide whether to legalize marijuana, while four other states will decide whether to allow medical use or ease restrictions. If the results of the legalization initiatives are all “yes,” about 23 percent of the U.S. – or 75 million Americans – will be able to use marijuana socially, up from 5.6 percent, or 18 million citizens, currently.
This conflict between state and federal law creates an unstable financial environment for producers and retailers of marijuana.
To get a better picture of the industry and the burdens imposed as a result of schizophrenic policies, a team of researchers from the University of Utah and the University of Michigan are conducting a survey of businesses that grow, process and sell marijuana in several states that have legalized it.
Preliminary results from Colorado suggest the conflict between state and federal policies is taking a severe toll on the industry.Petition signature gatherer Peter Keyes, right, discusses a petition to legalize marijuana in Sacramento, California.