From California, where lawmakers may legalize marijuana, to New Jersey, which implemented a medical use law Jan. 19, states are taking unprecedented steps to loosen marijuana restrictions, says USA Today. Advocates of legalizing marijuana say generational, political, and cultural shifts have taken the nation to a moment that could topple 40 years of tough restrictions on both medicinal and recreational marijuana use. A Gallup Poll last October found 44 percent favor making marijuana legal, an eight-point jump since in 2005.
Attorney General Eric Holder says raiding medical marijuana facilities is the lowest priority for U.S. law enforcement agents – a major shift that is spurring many states to re-examine their policies. At least 14 states this year – some deeply conservative and Republican-leaning, such as Kansas – will consider legalizing pot for medical purposes or lessening the penalties for possessing small amounts for personal use. Fourteen other states and the District of Columbia already have liberalized their marijuana laws. “The Obama administration opposes smoking marijuana for its medicinal benefit, says Tom McLellan, deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. He says more research is needed to deliver the medically useful ingredients in a non-smokable form. “We have the safest medications in the world and it’s not a coincidence. We have an enviable process by which we approve medications, and that’s through the (Food and Drug Administration),” he says. “It’s a bad idea to approve medication by popular vote.”