According to History.com, cannabis has been used by humans since at least 6000 BC. It was first adopted in Central Asia, and subsequently made its way across Europe, Africa, and North America, serving clothing, medicinal, ritualistic, and recreational purposes.
It was not until the mid-19th century, however, that cannabis began to be globally monitored, taxed, and ultimately criminalized throughout the world. With the Cannabis Tax Act of 1937, the US criminalized cannabis nationwide.
Today, attitudes about cannabis are changing once again. In fact, there are now companies that specialize in cannabis-oriented television content.
Here are three reasons why attitudes about cannabis are changing in the United States and across the world.
Cannabis legalization is sweeping the globe
In 1996, California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medicinal use by people with severe or chronic illnesses. By the end of 2017, while cannabis is still illegal on the federal level, states such as Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington have all legalized both medicinal and recreational use of cannabis. Additionally, 20 other states recognize medicinal cannabis as a legal and legitimate treatment for some ailments, with state registered medical marijuana doctors in Florida seeing booms in patients seeking this now-legal treatment. And recently the Canadian government legalized recreational cannabis.
Chile began legalizing the private and personal use of cannabis in 2005, and by 2016 had approved a bill allowing locals to grow small amounts of cannabis for medical, recreational, or spiritual use. In 2016, Uruguay made recreational cannabis legal. Australia, Ireland, Germany, and Jamaica have also created laws that recognized the use of medical cannabis as a legitimate form of treatment. According to this article, several African countries are also leaning toward legalization.
Decriminalization of cannabis is a bipartisan issue to reduce incarceration rates in the United States
One interesting differentiation in the cannabis world is that of decriminalization vs. legality. While it may take some countries a long time to officially legalize the buying, selling, growing, and use of cannabis, there is another path toward tolerance that officials can take: the path of decriminalization.
Decriminalization of cannabis means that the use of cannabis is still illegal, but the severity of punishment is taken down a notch. While decriminalization is not legalization, it is often seen as the first step toward legalization and can have other benefits for a state. For example, the decriminalization of cannabis will reduce the number of nonviolent criminals sent to prison.
This will result in a reduction of taxpayers’ money going toward the cost of incarceration. Currently, taxpayers spend approximately $80 billion each year on incarceration costs.
Decriminalization has supporters on both sides of the political divide, which is a rarity in today’s political climate. According to a recent Gallup poll, 64 percent of Americans favor decriminalizing cannabis. A majority of Republicans (51 percent) and a vast majority of Democrats (72 percent) are in favor of measures that either decriminalize or legalize cannabis.
Cannabis is being used widely for medicinal purposes
Solid scientific research shows that cannabis can be used to treat a wide variety of illnesses. The fact that medical professionals are prescribing cannabis is yet another sign that attitudes about cannabis are shifting.
The National Eye Institute has said the medical cannabis can be an effective treatment for those suffering from glaucoma, a condition that causes eye pain and vision damage due to a buildup of fluid in the eye. A recent study presented at the Neuroscience Education Institute concluded that cannabis could hold therapeutic benefits for patients suffering from chronic pain or who are undergoing chemotherapy.
Thanks to these and other studies, the medical cannabis market is expected to increase to $50 billion over the next 12 years.
Cannabis is becoming more and more popular across the globe. In a number of sectors, attitudes are shifting about the medicinal plant. Politically, both Democrats and Republicans agree that cannabis should either be decriminalized or legalized in the United States. As a result of shifting attitudes, eight states plus Washington, D.C ., have fully legalized cannabis. A number of countries have either decriminalized or legalized the plant as well.
From a medical perspective, doctors are beginning to research the medical benefits of medicinal cannabis. As a result, the industry is slated to grow immensely in the coming years.
Soon, shifting attitudes about cannabis will result in significant policy changes that allow millions more people to safely enjoy the plant for medical or recreational purposes around the world.