Happy Independence Day, America!


Independence Day has arrived in the United States of America and that means barbeques, fireworks, celebrations and memorials all across the nation. This Independence Day might mean a little bit more to millions of people across the country who feel that they are more equal under the eyes of the law, with the United States Supreme Court declaring marriage equality for same-sex couples the law of the land. Many in the cannabis community in Oregon are feeling a bit more free, following Oregon Legalization Day on July 1st. To some, the Fourth of July is melancholy as they feel that celebrating the United States is also celebrating some of our nation’s mistakes and atrocities.

For me, I look at the glass as half-full, thankful to live in a country that has given me great freedom and opportunities and the power to help us garner more freedom. However, I never want to lose sight of the fact that too many people are still marginalized and don’t feel as lucky as I do to live in the United States. The U.S. has done a lot of good, it has done a lot of bad, but it is a young country with the potential to become an even greater country and to help lead the world into an era of more freedom and equality.

The political progress of the cannabis legalization and marriage equality will forever be linked among political activists, just because both causes have risen to national prominence at the same time and the underlying civil rights issues that both encompass. This Independence Day marks the first Fourth of July where gays and lesbians have equal rights to marriage under the United States Constitution. Unfortunately, there are still a few holdouts in conservative states who are doing all they can to undermine the historic United States Supreme Court decision declaring marriage equality across the country. Most LGBT activists also understand that much more still needs to be done. The LGBT community still faces discrimination in housing, employment and generally in our culture. No court decision can bring true equality when discrimination and prejudice against a certain class of people is so embedded in our culture.

The cannabis community in Oregon, Colorado, Washington State, Alaska and Washington, D.C., all locations where marijuana is now legal, can all celebrate greater freedom and equality, but like the LGBT community, still suffers many forms of discrimination that will take more time to end. Employment, educational and housing choices can still be limited to many cannabis consumers. The ability to participate in cannabis commerce is hindered in many parts of the legalized states and completely in Washington, D.C., because of long-standing biases. A culture with years of discrimination against the cannabis community doesn’t change completely overnight, regardless of how overwhelming an electoral victory at the ballot box may be.

Despite the need to still improve our laws and culture, I have great hope for the United States of America and feel that we are on our way to more freedom and more equality across the land. Marijuana will be legal in more states after the 2016 November General Election and each and every day, the LGBT community will be more accepted. Thirty years from now, Americans will look back at the struggles of the LGBT and cannabis communities and will wonder what all the fuss was about and consider those that opposed freedom and equality in the same category of racial segregationists.

Let’s celebrate the fact that we just ushered in more freedom and equality for same-sex couples across the nation and we just allowed more than 3 million Oregon adults to legally utilize cannabis if they so choose, not to mention the more than 60 million adult tourists who visit Oregon every year. We can celebrate how far that we have come, while pledging to do better. On drug policy, we aren’t where Portugal is and on LGBT rights, we are still chasing many countries like Sweden; but we are making progress. We are a young country, and just like a young person, we have made many mistakes, but have so much potential. We have come a long way and will only get better, so long as we remain vigilant to fighting for more freedom and equality each and every day. I’ll strive to continue fighting for more freedom and equality and I know that I’m not alone by any means. Step by step, state by state, until we are all equal and free. Happy Independence Day, America!


Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.