A majority of the United States has legalized cannabis in some way, and it’s very exciting, I get it. Fewer people are being arrested, more people are getting off opioids, and accurately dosed pot chocolates might be the best thing to happen to weekends since the invention of television. But this state-by-state legalization thing that we’re doing is kind of a mess, mostly because federal prohibition hampers the whole thing from the get-go. And, since absurd restrictions still disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, as long as pot remains illegal on the federal level, your relationship to weed will continue to be, primarily, a function of your power.
Let’s start with the people who simply want to smoke a little pot, in a legal state like Washington or Michigan. Recall that there is no breathalyzer that can tell if someone is stoned: the best technology available will show use within the past three days. That means that “testing positive” for marijuana means you have used it recently, not that you were intoxicated at the time. Now consider all of the different ways that having weed in your system can still mess up your entire life if you are living in a so-called “legal” state: Your landlord can evict you for the joint you hit at a friend’s house. Your employer can fire you for the low-dose edible you tried on a Saturday night. Your gun rights could be taken away. You could be taken off an organ donation list. You can be kicked out of or denied public housing. You can lose your student loans, your food stamps, your Medicaid — any kind of federal benefits.
And what if you’ve heard about the so-called Green Rush, and are looking to invest or get a job in state-legal marijuana? Pot is the fastest growing industry in America, with nearly a quarter million workers. Investments in 2019 already dwarf the numbers from last year: $3.3 billion raised in North America in the first ten weeks of the year, a billion more than the same period in 2018. But even a low-level gig at a marijuana business can hurt your chance at a mortgage, affect your immigration status, and put your assets at risk. In one case,in Colorado, a lawful permanent resident with no criminal history was denied citizenship simply because he worked for a state-licensed marijuana company.