The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 made it illegal to possess, use, buy, sell, or cultivate cannabis in the land of the free. Marijuana is presently still classified as a Schedule I drug by United States federal law. Yet, in some states you can buy cannabis at the store, while in others, you can get a misdemeanor for possession. State regulations vary a lot between different states, and occasionally even within the same state. Federal enclaves, including national parks, and some Indian reservations have their own set of rules differing from the local state laws. Further confusion is brought about by distinct regulations between medical and recreational use. So, until the U.S. follows Canada’s lead with nationwide legalization, you may still want to double check state laws before crossing any borders. In this article, we will review where cannabis stands in the Southwestern states of Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Texas.
Colorado is well-known for leading the recreational marijuana movement in the states. Amendment 64 passed in 2012 and led to the legalization of cannabis by 2014. Cannabis tourism has become a substantial part of the state’s economy. Recreational legalization has helped provide more jobs and income for the state. Colorado’s state budget has also increased thanks to the sales tax revenue from marijuana.
Nevada recently followed suit and legalized cannabis for recreational use in January 2017. They have permitted medical use since year 2000. These laws are a huge step forward from the old, conservative stance which once prevailed in Nevada.
Arizona passed Proposition 203 in 2010 which legalized marijuana for medical use. In 2016, Arizona nearly legalized cannabis for recreational use, but Proposition 206 failed with 48.7% in favor of legalization. This gives hope for Arizona’s future though, as almost half the voting population believe recreational cannabis should be legal.
New Mexico legalized cannabis for medicinal use in 2007. It remains illegal for those without a prescription from a physician. Albuquerque, NM has decriminalized weed within city limits, but it is a criminal offense throughout the rest of the state.
Utah gives a misdemeanor to those caught with a small amount of bud for recreational use. Low-THC CBD oil has been legal to possess and use there since 2014, but only for those who are suffering from epilepsy and have a doctor’s recommendation. Earlier this year in March, HB 195 was signed which allows certain terminally ill patients access to medical cannabis. They gathered enough signatures in Utah for the Utah Medical Cannabis Act to appear on the ballot later this year in November. This is optimistic for the future of cannabis in Utah. But, until then, it remains one of the states in the Southwest with the strictest penalties for marijuana, including a felony with five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for the sale of any amount.
Over in Texas, cannabis is illegal for both medical and recreational purposes. Harris county is the only Texan county to decriminalize possession of less than four ounces. In 2015, the Texas Compassionate Use Act made the medical use of low-THC CBD oil legal for those suffering from epilepsy. A lot of misinformation surrounds the legality of CBD oil in Texas. It’s important to know what you’re getting, and the percentage of THC it contains.
Arguably the biggest issue surrounding the legality of Cannabis is that of money. Taxpayers in some of these Southwestern states are watching incarceration rates go up. Fellow citizens are being arrested for non-violent crimes involving cannabis. Big pharmaceutical companies are doing their best to keep medical cannabis legislation from passing. They don’t want to lose any of their customers to this natural, healthier alternative. Another important thing to note here is that many of these Southwestern border Mexico. Tons of smuggling goes through the Mexico-United States border, including cannabis. This means big profits for gangs and cartels. Instead, with the right legislation, states could raise money through cannabis sales tax and use it to help their citizens.
These are important and exciting times for cannabis and its legality in the states. Only time will tell, but we seem to be on the right path towards more fair laws that better represent the wants of our nation’s citizens. Don’t forget to do your part and vote on these issues!