In the midst of a hotly contested presidential election, voters put forth an effort to change how the country perceives the recreational use of marijuana along with other substances. Leading the way, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Adding on, Mississippi and North Dakota elected to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana. Elsewhere, voters in Oregon pushed to decriminalize the use of marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Furthermore, the state has moved to legalize the use of magic mushrooms for therapeutic purposes. Rounding out the change seen across the country, voters in the nation's capital decriminalized the use of psychedelic plants.
The recent changes in drug policy are a part of a larger shift in the perception of things like marijuana and magic mushrooms. In 2019, the Pew Research Center found that two thirds of Americans supported the legalization of marijuana. As a result, all of the recent measures were passed by at least 5 points.
One major driving force for the legalization of marijuana has been the boost it will have on the economy. States like New Jersey expect a $1.9 billion jump in total sales and a $126 million bump in sales tax revenue.
While the country is closer to legalizing marijuana in all 50 states, many Americans remain incarcerated for using and selling a substance that is now legal. From 2001 until 2010, seven million people were arrested for simply possessing the drug. Furthermore, a study from the ACLU found that a person was arrested for weed every 37 seconds in 2010. Despite Black and white Americans using marijuana at roughly the same rate, Black Americans were four times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana. In certain states, these arrests can result in lengthy or even life sentences. Even with the legalization of marijuana in many place, many non-violent citizens remain locked up for selling or using just a few grams of marijuana.
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