Two out of three Americans support the legalization of marijuana.
That's the message from poll after poll on the issue.
Yet, in the United States, recreational marijuana is legal in only 10 states and Washington, D.C. Thirty-three states allow medical marijuana. Pot is still illegal at the federal level.
That leaves much of the American public, including all of us residing in Idaho, living in areas where we can still be arrested for possessing even small quantities of the drug. And a conviction for possession of marijuana can have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences, like making it difficult to get a home loan or financing for college.
Before you go thinking it's only hippie college students and heathens smoking, according to a 2017 survey conducted by Yahoo News and Marist Poll, 52 percent of Americans 18 or older have tried marijuana at some point in their lives, and 44 percent of those who tried it once still use it today - including grandma and grandpa.
Spend a few minutes outside of one of Whitman County's pot shops, including Floyd's Cannibis Co, which is conveniently located about 1 mile across the Idaho border, and you will see a wide range of clientele, many of whom have Idaho license plates on their vehicles. The vast majority of those Idaho residents drive right back across the border with marijuana in their vehicles - and a simple traffic stop could haunt them the rest of their lives.
Many residents living in states where marijuana is currently legal are still living with that reality. Nationwide, according to the ACLU, more than 7 million people were arrested for possessing marijuana from 2001-10.
Some states and municipalities are working to clear the records of those who were convicted of small-time possession charges. In Washington, for instance, Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week he plans to pardon as many as 3,500 people, and a new law in California requires prosecutors to erase or reduce an estimated 220,000 pot convictions.
"We have people who have this burden on their shoulders from a simple, one-time marijuana possession from maybe 20 years ago, and that's impeding the ability of people to live their lives," Inslee said in an Associated Press story. "It can damage their ability to get financing for a home; it can damage their ability to get financing for colleges, even simple things like going on a field trip with your kids."
Fortunately, the tide of public opinion has turned and it is only a matter of time before marijuana is legalized nationwide, and we hope when it is, lawmakers don't forget to extend a helping hand to all of those with petty pot charges on their records.