April 20th has long been an unofficial holiday for marijuana enthusiasts and advocates. A poll released in April 2016 says that 56 percent of Americans believe that marijuana should be legal. This is compared to 36 percent who were polled and said that they are against legalization of marijuana. The approval rating was the highest it has ever been, and is slightly higher than the approval rating from 2015. The state of New York has legalized it for medical purposes only, but lawmakers are considering allowing its use for recreational purposes as well.
Currently, 23 states have medical marijuana statutes while a handful of states allow legal recreational use. Although recreational use is legal in states such as Alaska, Washington and Colorado, it is still considered a federal crime to use or possess the substance. In the near future, marijuana may be legal in New York, California and several other states for any purpose.
The push to legalize marijuana comes among a changing political and economic landscape. In 1992, Bill Clinton had to deny inhaling marijuana while running for president while in 2006 Barack Obama joked about using it. In Colorado, marijuana taxes netted the state $63 million in tax revenue in its first year of legalization while the industry as a whole had $700 million in Colorado sales. Of that amount, $313 million came from sales of recreational marijuana.
Individuals in states where it isn’t legal and who are charged with possession could face a variety of penalties, including fines. Criminal defense attorneys might see if they can work out an arrangement with the prosecutor that would provide for a reduced sanction such as a drug diversion program.