As the legalization of cannabis for medicinal and adult-use continues to sweep across the U.S., it is apparent that many people are no longer listening to the negative propaganda that has been associated with the plant for almost 100 years. We have come a long way from the early 1930s, when Harry Anslinger, the first U.S. appointed Commissioner of the Bureau of Narcotics said:
“Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users, insanity, criminality and death.”
From the mid-1970s through to the turn of the 21st century, the cannabis education battle has been organized by patients and drug policy advocates, including researchers and physicians, who point out that the war on cannabis has been largely based on racism, fear, and greed. During this period, their efforts were met with resistance and roadblocks from law enforcement agencies and politicians who believed the answer was to “Just Say No”, or incarceration, and refused to acknowledge the facts and clinical information that began to surface around the world.
36 states have approved cannabis for medical use and 15 states have authorized adult use.
Over the last 20 years, the struggles of the early adopters and educators have finally taken hold in the U.S. As of November 2020, 36 states have approved cannabis for medical use and 15 states have authorized adult use. In 2018, Canada became the second country in the world after Uruguay to formally legalize the cultivation, possession, acquisition and consumption of cannabis. The U.S. is waking up to the medicinal power of cannabis, and a global revolution is now taking place.
Consumers are now influencing how legislators and physicians view the true benefits of this amazing plant. Highlighting this educational breakthrough was further demonstrated with the passing of the 2018 Federal Farm Bill that removed hemp (the cousin of cannabis) from the list of controlled substances. This change in federal policy has been an economic and health benefit game-changer for the entire nation, as consumers discover the healing benefits of CBD, one of the many medicinal compounds found in the hemp plant. Our educational journey of discovery will greatly expand throughout as we uncover the hundreds of medicinal and commercial applications of hemp.
Educational efforts must continue at all levels of government as we help decision-makers realize the wellness benefits of cannabis, but also the economic, social, tax and job creation prospects the plant has to offer. We also need to continue to educate law enforcement and judicial agencies at all levels and advocate for changes in outdated cannabis laws that have negatively impacted communities of color.
Over the next ten years, we have a unique opportunity as a country to help educate what is possible when you have responsible laws in place; laws that do not restrict doctors from integrating cannabis into treatment protocols and view cannabis like any other medicine covered and paid for by insurance companies. Furthermore, we can accelerate our educational efforts to expand the medical research and commercial distribution of CBD as a nutraceutical product.
As we begin to expand this industry through outreach and education, our efforts will undoubtedly create job opportunities throughout the country. Specialized training will be needed in multiple areas including retail, IT, agricultural and cultivation, manufacturing, marketing and PR, customer service, and product extraction. Cannabis companies will create internal trainer/educator positions. Fundamental baseline industry educational courses are now being introduced by colleges and universities to help educate this new workforce.
As the cannabis education evolution continues to expand in ways we could only imagine ten years ago, the future looks bright. Federal legalization appears to be closer than ever before and national decriminalization seems almost certain. The fight to educate people around the world about the properties of this amazing plant continues every day. We have a long but promising road ahead of us.