By Staff Writer
The legalization movement is gaining momentum in America. With the recent legislation that has passed so far, many people no longer ask if it can happen but when it will happen. It’s a hot political issue that will remain complicated for quite some time.
Like any other federally-illegal activity that is regulated by the government, there is a lot of gray area, murky zones that are a huge topic of debate that has brought up a lot of questions.
Do medical marijuana licenses allow you to travel with cannabis? What happens if your drug tests come back positive for THC at your job? Can you buy CBD products online? Will those convicted of marijuana-related crimes be pardoned?
The list goes on and on. Unfortunately, the list continues to grow longer before anyone can successfully address the questions we already have. This is due to the fact that a lot of lawmakers are left scratching their heads over the conundrum that emerging policies have brought out.
We are simply unprepared for the legalization movement spreading as rapidly as it is. Without clear laws to clarify the judgments of some of these scenarios, lack of direct legal protection is leaving some citizens with unfortunate penalties.
Take, for instance, the event of a surprise drug test. Many states in the U.S. allow employers to perform random drug tests on employees or require one to get a job. Failure to pass the test set by their own criteria can result in immediate termination, suspension, or refusal of a job offer.
Imagine going out with your friends and taking a quick drive to one of the states that have approved recreational cannabis – such as Washington or Massachusetts. You are of age, generally stay completely sober, and have never broken any law before.
You and your friends decide to smoke a little bit of the product you purchased legally from a dispensary. You only use it within state lines during your vacation and show up to work the next week after being sober for a few days.
Your boss suddenly announces that today will be an unprovoked, surprise drug test (something which is legal in some states). THC, the active ingredient in the plant, can stay in your bloodstream for weeks— even in the absence of any THC-related impairment (Cary, 2006).
So, despite being sober the whole time you were at work back in your state of employment, you can test positive. Your employer has the right to fire you on the spot, regardless of your previous performance. There is literally nothing you can do at that moment, even if you provide proof that you consumed cannabis in a state where recreational use was legal.
This is the problem with partial legalization – a problem which lawmakers are trying to slowly fix. Nevada, for example, became the first state to make it illegal to refuse employment to someone for the sole reason that they failed a drug test.
Of course, there are special laws in place that can protect people who are holding a medical marijuana card, but even that isn’t enough to get you out of the legal limbo all the time.
Even though cannabis is completely legal in some states, should it be fair that you are forced to face consequences even though you didn’t break the law? (And also, is it fair that you are forced to face consequences for breaking laws that no longer exist?)
If you are having problems wrapping your head around this debate, try to replace “cannabis” with alcohol. Alcohol, a once-illegal substance, is now legally offered to anyone in the U.S. who is “of age.” It is a drug that people use to have a good time – even between superiors and employees.
Now, it is clear that you shouldn’t be allowed to show up to work drunk, but do you think it would be fair if your boss fired you because you went out drinking with friends last weekend?
The big difference here is that alcohol gets flushed from your system so fast, this would be difficult to do. A breathalyzer won’t let the administrator know if you drank two nights ago— but THC tests can tell if you smoked last week.
Fairness and law haven’t always gone hand in hand, but we will have to wait on reformation until we’ve reached an answer.
There are so many things that we need to sort out as a country. There are several different legal decisions that must be made by lawmakers to put an end to this confusion.
Long-time legalization supporter, Bernie Sanders, just may be the man to do it. The presidential candidate has been rather vocal about his opinions on cannabis in the past, but many are still surprised by his radical policy proposal.
Sanders has announced a three-part plan which hopes to address some of the muddle. First, he wants to legalize cannabis across the nation and pardon all marijuana-related convictions. The money made from taxing the plant sales will be put back into the communities— especially those hit particularly hard during the “War on Drugs.” Finally, he wants to take some steps to make sure that the industry doesn’t end up in the same boat of controversy as “big tobacco.”
Accomplishing this would be a huge win for legalization. It would help address previously existing problems with current legalization proceedings and help correct some of the damage done during the failed “War on Drugs” campaign.
Whether or not you use cannabis, these legal decisions can have a huge impact on you. The legalization movement isn’t just about giving the public access to cannabis, it is about liberalizing our culture.