What could the US legalizing marijuana look like?

A map of legalization in North America is looking like a coloring book page that didn’t get finished before arts-and-crafts time ended. And the only section that’s yet to be completely filled in by the End-of-Prohibition Crayola is the United States.

This is because, in the US, marijuana is still federally illegal.

But many think The Prohibition End is coming sooner rather than later. Especially now that Jeff and Pete Sessions are gone. In case you’d forgotten, they were the guys that yelled, “NOT A GOOD PERSON!” or “MORAL DOWNFALL OF AMERICA!” whenever they heard the word “reefer.”

The question of when and if the U.S. will legalize marijuana at the national level continues to become increasingly relevant. So, too, does the debate on whether or not federal legalization is a good thing.

…So, you know, is it?


Well, yeah, mostly pretty much.

Fine. It depends.

All legalization is not created equal. And how legal the U.S. makes marijuana, if-slash-when it does, matters. Like, a lot.


50 shades of legal

Compare hydrocodone (Vicodin) and alcohol, for example. Each is either illegal or legal, depending on whether you’re the right person with the right qualifications. If you have a prescription for Vicodin, you can lawfully possess and consume it. If you don’t, you can’t. By contrast, anyone 21 or older can possess and drink alcohol, and no prescription is required.


Those are very different standards, and they exist because of how the federal government classifies (AKA schedules) drugs. It’s common knowledge that marijuana is a schedule I controlled substance, which is considered the “highest” drug schedule. The Schedule I label is for substances that are addictive and have no known medical value. For context, this means that marijuana lives in the same cul de sac as LSD, peyote, and ecstasy.

Vicodin is a schedule II substance, while alcohol is not scheduled at all. Still, there are specific requirements for you to legally obtain either.


Rescheduling or descheduling?

The scheduling system has major implications for marijuana. Legalizing marijuana comes in several different shades. For example, legalization could mean rescheduling marijuana as a schedule II substance. Instead of the alcohol realm, a schedule-II designation would put cannabis in the prescription-required, high-risk category alongside drugs such as fentanyl, Adderall, and OxyContin.

And that’s where the “it depends” comes in. If your pro-legalization stance is based on the idea that marijuana is medicine, a schedule II classification gets you where you want to go. Doctors could prescribe it and possessing it (with a prescription) would be legal. In other words, it gets you to the Vicodin realm.

If you’re a rec-use advocate, a schedule II classification has the potential to be your worst nightmare. For one, it would open the door for Big Pharma to dominate the industry. If that, by any chance, didn’t kill off your local mom-and-pop dispensary, the federal government would probably be delighted to deliver the final blow. Also, smoked cannabis such as flower would be out of commission, as the negative health effects of combustibles have made them a medicinal no-go. Basically, in a schedule-II universe, your pre-concert edibles or casual-Friday-night vape pen would remain illegal without a prescription, and they’d likely be a lot harder to acquire, to boot.

Suffice it to say that this future’s possibility has been enough to make at least a few people go, “You know, I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually pretty okay with that whole schedule I thing.” If this is you, you’re not alone. Or you at least now know that you’re a descheduling advocate when it comes to legalizing marijuana.


What shade are you?

Granted, much of this is essentially staring into a crystal ball, which, incidentally, is a really frustrating experience if you’re doing it for any reason other than to just gaze into a crystal ball. And, if that’s the case, maybe a little less weed?

For those who support an end to federal prohibition, contemplating what genre of legal that end will look like is important. If you’re pro-recreational use, it may be even more important. In a way, it’s kind of like discovering that someone’s on the roof of your house, prepping to enter it through your chimney: it’s never gonna be a bad idea to go ahead and make sure it is, in fact, a present-laden Santa — not an unwelcome intruder gunning for your stash.


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