A Candid Look at Cannabis
Written by Briana Oldham // Illustrated by Alexia Carcelli
Forget me not! How much do we know about the legalization of cannabis?
It’s more than just if it’s legal or not, whether the effects are good or bad, and what forms it comes in. April is National Cannabis Awareness Month and there is so much more to learn—it starts with what the regulations are nationally and how they trickle down to Ohio and the various states.
Cannabis can be referred to by many names: ganja, hash, hemp, marijuana, and weed, to name a few. The journey to where we are now began with the decriminalization of cannabis in the ‘70s. According to esquire.com, beginning with Oregon and followed shortly after by Alaska, Maine, Colorado, California and Ohio, these states set the tone. Offenders receiving lesser charges for possession of controlled substances was the biggest takeaway during this era.
Roughly two decades would pass before the issue would be revisited and amended to look at the uses and benefits of medical cannabis. I don’t recall there being conversations regarding cannabis for medicinal purposes beginning in 1996, but then again, I wouldn’t since I was only seven. Leading the pack and among the first to legalize medical cannabis were California, Oregon, Alaska, Washington state, Maine, and Hawaii.
Four out of six of these states pioneered this initiative on both occasions. I’m no expert but I’d say this was because it was probably easier once the glass ceiling was broken on decriminalization to keep going to the legalization of medical cannabis. The next phase in the full legalization process is considered somewhat sorted history because every state had their own ideas about how to proceed.
There would be, much like last time, about 15 years before we saw the next development with cannabis. Starting with Colorado and Washington in 2012, over the next seven years, an additional nine states would make legal the usage and possession of cannabis by way of an amendment, ballot initiative or state legislature.
The District of Columbia has also made legal recreational use of cannabis. Though the move to legalize recreational cannabis camelast in a series of measures, each state went at their own pace when deciding if the time was right to pass their own laws.
For example, while there were many years between steps for most states, Illinois legalized medicinal cannabis in 2013 and legalized recreational use just last year. This is the most recent state to crossover to the recreational side and the only state to do so in such a short length of time after legalizing medical cannabis.
Another very important aspect to look at when discussing cannabis is why it is viewed as taboo. The fact that it has a negative connotation and those who use cannabis are looked at as doing something bad or wrong. This is a reason why Americans have been conflicted about whether legalizing cannabis is a good move. See also, the War on Drugs.
Most people if not totally familiar have at least heard of the War on Drugs. Seeing that it is a huge part of how and why there is a stigma around the advancements made within the cannabis industry, I wanted to explore the initiative further.
It started in the 1970s (how odd that it came around the same time as the first phase of decriminalization) and has continued to evolve. The myriad of reactions to this movement ranged from full support to feelings that certain races were targeted and that it was fueled by politics.
From the beginning, according to history.com, President Nixon wanted to ensure certain drugs could be regulated. As a result, he signed
the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) into law in 1970. The CSA outlined five “schedules” or classifications of drugs based on how dangerous they were thought to be and how addictive they were. Cannabis, as you may or may not have guessed, was at the top of the list; it was categorized as Schedule 1 along with LSD, heroin, and MDMA (ecstasy).
It’s clear, one of the drugs in the above-mentioned is not like the rest. But Nixon proceeded and created the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 1973. This was his way of policing the drugs that people used and that entered the United States.
Regardless what side you stood on during this time, a valid question most people were asking concerned Nixon's motivation behind the extreme measures on which he sought to create laws. It was his own domestic policy chief, John Ehrlichman, who alluded then came out and directly said that Nixon may have had ulterior motives.
“The antiwar left and Black people,” are the two enemies Ehrlichman explained the Nixon administration had.
Ehrlichman felt so strongly he went on record saying, “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.”
The above statement would send few shockwaves across America. Most people felt that -- whatever the reason behind it -- Nixon was doing everyone a favor getting the drugs and their users off the streets. Though there was a lull in the War on Drugs in the mid 70s, the effects of the snowball Nixon set in motion still linger today.
In Ohio, only medical marijuana is legal. This is a result of legislation passed in 2016. Over the years, there have been many advancements within the cannabis industry. More specifically, the first thing that was implemented was the Ohio Marijuana Card. According to ohiomarijuanacard.com, if you have one of the 20 conditions listed on the site, you may be eligible to receive the card. There are 48 dispensaries that address any of the conditions cardholders may be suffering from.
Should getting into the cannabis field interest you, Ohio is also home to the Cleveland School of Cannabis (CSC). Per the website csceducation.com, it is the only State Approved Career School for Cannabis education east of Colorado. CSC offers cannabis education and helps provide opportunities for those who are interested in careers that deal with all things cannabis. Located in Independence, Ohio, there are three program options to choose from: Cannabis Horticulture, Cannabis Dispensary, and Medical Applications of Cannabis. Although the careers in this field might be limited in Ohio, CSC equips you with the knowledge to get a job anywhere.
According to crainscleveland.com, several businesses are now licensed in growing, processing and selling medical marijuana. By 2025, it is projected that there will be approximately 19,000 jobs in retail, cultivation, processing, manufacturing, testing, wholesale and distribution.
Those who lobbied for the legislation to legalize were happy because of what it would mean for the people who could benefit from its healing properties.
Aaron Marshall, campaign spokesperson for Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, was elated that House Bill 523 passed, making medical marijuana legal. Marshal said afterwards to the Associated Press, “This is a joyous day for the thousands of Ohioans who will finally be able to safely access much-needed medicine.”
There may be a long way to go before cannabis is available for recreational use, but the state has made great strides. Starting with the decriminalization of cannabis almost three decades ago, their action coupled with the revenue and creation of future jobs has set Ohio apart. The people of Ohio, including lawmakers, can soon carry the torch and lead at the forefront of this cannabis movement.