In the past five years, eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana for adults. Today, 68 million people live in areas where marijuana is treated like alcohol or tobacco. The drug is sold in stores, millions of tax dollars are being raised from its sale, and an increasing number of businesspeople are profiting in this lucrative new industry. Long seen as either a hippie accessory or a dangerous gateway drug, legal marijuana is booming. Pot is so popular that, in 2015, its sales surpassedGirl Scout cookies, Oreos, and Dasani bottled water. By 2026, analysts predict it will match, and eventually outpace, America’s $50 billion wedding industry.
How did this happen? How did marijuana transform from a primary target of Just Say No into something that, according to a recent Gallup poll, 60% of Americans want legalized? The answer lies in five decades’ worth of grassroots activism, in which legions of the drug’s supporters pushed to move marijuana from decriminalization to criminalization to legalization.
But, while legalization proponents may declare victory in the war over marijuana today, history shows that the debate is far from settled.
In fact, we’ve been here before. Between 1973 and 1978, a dozen states decriminalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Pro-pot activists, many of them young veterans of the anti-war and civil-rights movements, argued that marijuana wasn’t as harmful as the government said it was, and that laws against it were unjust. [Read more at TIME]