We’re either on the brink of a new era in American history, or we’re about to snap suddenly back to the status quo.
Marijuana is now legal for recreational or medical purposes in just over half of the U.S., and our country stands divided over what happens next. While advocates for legalization attempt to pass bills and ballot measures in more and more states, federal lawmakers—led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions—seem to be signalling their intentions to return to the War on Drugs of the 1980s, 90s, and early 2000s.
In the daily deluge of cannabis news and opinion about what’s, um, in the pipeline, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we’ve been here before. Prohibition was in effect less than 100 years ago, and lasted for over a decade. Before then, laws also varied by state (and even by county—some regions remain “dry” to this day). Truly, the pace of American history depends on where you live when it’s happening:
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Why should compliance professionals care about marijuana legalization? Because, unlike alcohol, the substance appears to have numerous medical applications, which could mean its use may eventually be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As the legal status of a drug changes, so does its relative place and significance in society. You may find the possibility of a future in which employees get high at work to be alarming or bizarre, but remember: people used to risk their freedom and safety to drink cocktails at speakeasies hidden behind fake bookshelves and under trap doors.
At the same time, for all of its purported health benefits, cannabis clearly impairs some kinds of mental and physical performance. The same substance that helps some people cope with seizures and chronic pain could lead to higher rates of accidents and injuries at worksites with heavy machinery. Perhaps this is one reason no one’s quite sure how to classify or regulate it.
No matter what the future holds, you can be sure we’ll write about the latest developments on our blog, where you can also find more weekly compliance statistics.