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The Social Change and its Effect on Legalizing Marijuana

Apr 28, 2015 • 2:01 PM EDT
Opportunity-Sign.jpg
3 MIN READ  •  By Michael Berger
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Recently, Bloomberg presented the results of a study which suggests that marijuana will become legal sooner than most people think. Bloomberg looked at six significant issues to show how this has happened before and may happen again soon. The issues they looked into were interracial marriage, prohibition, women’s suffrage, abortion, same-sex marriage, and recreational marijuana.

Bloomberg was able to discover that this widespread reform is not unique to same-sex marriage. They found that social change in the United States tends to follow a pattern: A few states enact change and then a key event, typically through a legal verdict or a grassroots campaign reaching maturity, leads to a spike in the number of states that follow the precedent set by the first few states. This ultimately leads to a change in federal law.

Interracial marriage

In 1787, Pennsylvania and New Jersey were the first states to legalize interracial marriage. By 1948, 16 states followed the precedent set by Pennsylvania and New Jersey and legalized interracial marriage. In 1948, California’s Supreme Court ruled that the state’s prohibition on interracial marriage was unconstitutional. It was the first state court since Reconstruction to invalidate an interracial marriage ban. After California’s ban was lifted, 13 more states followed suit. In 1967, the Supreme Court ruled that states could not prohibit interracial marriage.

Prohibition

The road to prohibition was a rocky one. Several states passed anti-drinking laws then repealed them, then passed new ones. States decided that this was an issue that should be decided by the municipality and by 1906, popular votes for prohibition led to where around a third of the U.S. population lived in dry territory. With more local and federal politicians supporting prohibition, groups like the Anti-Saloon League gained momentum and successfully pushed for statewide prohibition in 29 states.

Woman’s suffrage

In 1890, Wyoming became the first state to grant women full voting rights after the state entered the union. For more than a decade, women could vote in only four western states. By 1910, the National American Women’s Suffrage Association and other groups had become organized in their effort to get more states on board and allow women the right to vote. 10 years later, 23 states joined the movement which led to the enactment of the 19th Amendment which ended woman’s suffrage.

Abortion

The movement to legalize abortion is an outlier. It could have followed the same pattern as other issues, but in 1973 the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade legalized abortions. Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, 17 states allowed abortions but only four (Alaska, Hawaii, Washington and New York) allowed women to end a pregnancy without cause.

Same-sex marriage

In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex couples to get married. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it is legal. Since 2013, 28 states (36 overall) have legalized same-sex marriage. Today, the Supreme Court will hear arguments as to the constitutionality of restrictions on same-sex marriage.

Recreational marijuana

Recreational marijuana looks like it is going to be the next big social issue to head down a similar path and it is already starting to happen. Currently, 23 states and Washington D.C., have legalized medical marijuana and 4 states have legalized recreational marijuana. Researchers expect recreational marijuana to be on the ballot in 2016 in at least 5 states. The marijuana social issue is still in its infancy, but the 2016 election will serve as a catalyst for it legalization.

Overall

The pattern of social change is happening faster than ever before. It took almost 200 years before the Supreme Court ruled that restrictions on interracial marriage was unconstitutional. The prohibition movement lasted seven decades before the 18th Amendment was enacted. If the Supreme Court finds that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, this movement would have lasted more than a decade.

Since the trigger point for interracial marriage, the initial social issue, the amount of time it has taken for federal action has decreased significantly.

  • interracial marriage: 19 years
  • Prohibition: 13 years
  • Woman’s suffrage: 10 years
  • Abortion: 6 years
  • Same sex marriage: Over 2 years

 

http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-pace-of-social-change/

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Authored By

Michael Berger

Michael Berger is Managing Partner of StoneBridge Partners, LLC and Founder of Technical420.com. Prior to entering the cannabis industry, Michael was an Equity Research Analyst at Raymond James Financial covering the Energy Sector. Michael has been featured in publications such as The Street, Bloomberg, US Money News, and hosts various cannabis events across North America.

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