Written by Miranda Helus
November 8, 2016 was a momentous day not just because of the shocking results from the presidential election. In California, Proposition 64, which called for the legalization of recreational marijuana, was passed, with 56% of voters declaring “yes” to the initiative . Recreational marijuana was also legalized in three other states: Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts . Meanwhile, in four other states (Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota), medical marijuana was approved for legalization .
With the passage of this groundbreaking measure, individuals who are twenty-one years old or over can now possess and even cultivate marijuana in their own homes . Of course, there are still several restrictions and regulations that marijuana users must keep in mind. For example, adults are prohibited from consuming marijuana in public areas  and are only allowed to grow up to six plants at one time in their houses . Although adults are permitted to share it with each other, it is currently illegal to publicly sell it as a recreational drug . This is primarily due to the highly strict licensing processes that marijuana shops must undergo; in fact, local governments expect marijuana stores to start opening up in 2018 .
Despite the legalization of marijuana (both recreational and medical) in more states, the drug is still considered a “Schedule I” controlled substance under federal law, meaning that it has no currently acceptable medical purpose and has a high risk of abuse . In August, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) denied another petition to reschedule the drug, an action that has disappointed many pharmaceutical and healthcare workers . Marijuana’s federal classification as an illicit substance unfortunately makes it more difficult for research or clinical studies to be conducted on the substance compared to other controlled drugs . Additionally, its illegal status makes it a poor, unfriendly investment and an economic detriment to marijuana businesses. These companies find it difficult to gain access to basic financial services from banks nationwide and are also forced to pay higher taxes since they do not receive business deductions from the government . With the increasing rates of the legalization of marijuana (especially medical marijuana) amongst states, however, some potential benefits may be showered upon the healthcare industry. Studies have demonstrated that in 2013, medical marijuana saved about $165 million in Medicare costs and have estimated that nationwide medical marijuana legalization could save $470 million annually in Medicare expenses . There has also been recent evidence that marijuana could possibly prevent opioid-related overdose deaths and help alleviate the opioid addiction crisis in the United States .
Healthcare providers and researchers see great opportunities in utilizing marijuana as a form of useful treatment. Many still press for marijuana to be rescheduled so that it can be easier for marijuana’s medical potential to be fully recognized. Whatever happens in the future, the decisions made on November 8 nevertheless contribute to another big and significant step in the long-running quest for marijuana legalization.
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