Along with receiving the news about President-Elect Trump on November 9, the people of our country also received word that marijuana’s slow shift to legality is officially taking hold. This election was unique in many ways and one of those ways is the way marijuana has come to the forefront. For those of us in recovery, this is an interesting battle. Should we support marijuana legalization for medical and recreational use? Will the election results affect us? How will it affect recovery? We’re left with a plethora of detailed questions.
Which states legalized marijuana and how?
Massachusetts voters said yes to a bill to legalize the recreational use, possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana. The bill also outlines regulations similar to alcohol. Legalization of recreational marijuana begins in Massachusetts on December 15. Medicinal marijuana was already legal in California, but this year they voted in favor of legalizing recreational use, possession, cultivation, and sale of the drug. This legalization is limited to people over the age of 21. Another important thing to note about California’s legalization is that it includes rolling back the sentences of people who’ve been convicted on marijuana-related charges. Additionally, it will be interesting to see how the California marijuana business booms because the state of California alone is the sixth-largest economy in the world. Yes, that is bigger than some small countries.
Similarly, Nevada voted yes to legalize recreational use, possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana. It will also be limited to people over the age of 21. Only licensed medicinal dispensaries are allowed to apply for licenses for recreational sales. In Maine, voters said yes to legalize recreational pot use, possession, cultivation, and sale to adults over 21. Maine already has medicinal marijuana in use. Voters in Florida, Arkansas, and North Dakota made it legal for doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to their patients. Montana also voted to ease restrictions on their old medical marijuana law which put a ban on medical marijuana advertisements and limited dispensaries to having only three users. Montana voted yes to repeal the three-patient limit for medical marijuana providers. In Arizona where medical marijuana is currently legal, voters rejected an amendment on the ballot to legalize recreational use.
The more we look around, the closer our country is getting to the legalization of marijuana across the board. Let’s take a look at how this will affect people in recovery going forward.
How marijuana results affect those in recovery
Although marijuana legalization can be a hot-button topic, especially for those in recovery, these conversations need to be had. If you would have asked me 4 years ago if I was for the legalization of pot I would have said, “yes, of course, pot for everyone!” without blinking. When I got sober I changed my tune. I needed to see the facts and the data on medical marijuana and recreational and since educating myself I have often felt torn. One successful way we battle against addiction is through prevention programs in schools. Many prevention pathways include saying no to legalization of any kind. It’s a struggle because I don’t want to promote drugs, but legalization does help with decriminalization and medical illness. There are pros and cons to both sides.
As people in recovery, we must be ready for the unknown. It will depend on where you live, but for those people who are in states where recreational use has become legal preparing yourself for marijuana ads and use is a good idea. If we feel bombarded by alcohol ads and happy hour menus now, I can only believe it might be just as bad with marijuana. This is a reality some of us will have to face. This may be difficult, especially if marijuana was your drug of choice. Additionally, medical marijuana may now be prescribed by doctors for certain diseases and ailments. If marijuana as a treatment is not something you want to mess with, tell your doctor. It will be similar to turning down any opioid prescriptions because you’re in recovery. This is what I do. Last year I had knee surgery and I told the doctor I only wanted non-narcotic pain relief because I am in recovery. I believe we’ll have this same choice with medical marijuana.
Using potentially addictive substances can be dangerous for anyone in recovery. This includes medical marijuana. Marijuana addiction exists, just like addiction to prescription pain pills exists. Even if marijuana was not your drug of choice, it has the power to make you think of your drug of choice or using of any kind. As they say in the rooms, it’s a slippery slope. My goal here isn’t to tell anyone how to work their own recovery, but to get you think about the changing environment and how hard we’ve had to fight against Big Alcohol and their advertisements and annoying business goals.
As people in recovery, we must be more vigilant and more educated than ever. We have to be brave enough to ask questions and educate ourselves on the issues. What you do with your vote is up to you, but decisions have already been made across the country in countless states regarding marijuana. We should think about what we will each do to prepare ourselves for the environment that we currently live in.
If recovery has taught me anything, it’s that I can go through anything life throws at me and stay sober, including marijuana legalization. For me, living in recovery means abstaining from medical marijuana. That’s a decision you may soon have to make for yourself.