New Jersey's Legalization of Weed Wasn't Election Night's Only Big Drug Story

Sarah Rense
·3-min read
Photo credit: Spencer Platt
Photo credit: Spencer Platt

From Esquire

Last night sure was a fun one. Light nihilism turned to outright dread as the electoral college system blundered through another election day, the President declared a victory he did not net, and peace of mind alluded a sickly nation yet again. But good news came in small doses—good drug news, particularly. Nice.

In New Jersey, voters chose to legalize recreational marijuana for personal, non-medical use for adults 21 and older, making it the twelfth state to do so in the U.S. It chose to legalize it at a striking margin at that, with nearly 70 percent voting in favor. It will be a while before a dispensary network is set up, as the state has to figure out its regulatory system, but once it does, New Jersey could potentially have the lowest tax rate on marijuana in the country.

Across the Hudson River, where legalization efforts have stalled, millions of New Yorkers muttered to themselves, "Hell yes," and looked into booking rental cars to the shore.

New Jersey wasn't the only weed story. By this morning, CNN had projected that legalization efforts on the ballot in South Dakota and Arizona also passed. South Dakota, interestingly enough, didn't yet allow medical marijuana use for adults before the election; it's the first state to go for a twofer instead of approving marijuana use step by step. In Arizona, it appears voters approved legalization of up to one ounce of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older, tasking the state with setting up a regulatory system for dispensaries. And this morning, under similar guidelines, Montana called it for legal cannabis too.

So, as it stands, 15 states in America, as of November 4, 2020, have legalized marijuana for the of-age masses. While that tired, overwhelmed brain of yours might only be able to muster up a kneejerk reaction—"Weed, lit."—like a napping dog lifting one eyelid to make sure its owner is pulling celery out of the fridge, not a T-bone steak, legalization represents a lot more than an easier high. It's about criminal justice reform, mental health assistance, and economic growth. It's about giving police fewer excuses to arrest people of color for nonviolent drug crimes, and rebuilding the communities already targeted by the war on drugs. It's about allowing more research into this relatively unstudied substance to see how it might help (or hurt) us.

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It's never just about the weed. Although, you know, nice.

We're past the days of marijuana being the only drug anyone's talking about legalizing, though, as Oregon just proved. In the state, 56 percent of residents voted to legalize—not just decriminalize, as has already happened in a few cities—psychedelic shrooms, the Oregonian reports. That doesn't mean magic mushroom dispensaries will start cropping up at strip malls. The measure, backed by two psychotherapists, will allow the use of psilocybin (the active hallucinogenic compound in shrooms) for adults 21 and over in therapeutic settings. It will be kept and administered by licensed practitioners.

In another first, Oregon also decriminalized small amounts of hard drugs—heroin, cocaine, and LSD included. The initiative was championed for much the same reason as cannabis legalization efforts: to keep people out of prison and to open up alternative options for medical treatment.

Drug restrictions are slowly but steadily easing up across America, just in time for everything else to, well, continue falling to shit.

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