|Steve Elliott ~alapoet~
|Washington, Oregon and Colorado will be voting Tuesday on various cannabis legalization plans
Marijuana history is about to be altered forever in the United States; after tomorrow, at least one state — and possibly three — will almost certainly have legalized cannabis.
Colorado, Oregon and Washington voters head to the polls Tuesday to decide the fate of ballot initiatives that would, to one degree or another, move toward ending marijuana prohibition in their respective states. A win at the ballot would be a first of its kind in U.S. history; no state has ever legalized cannabis before.
The latest polls show that slight majorities in Colorado and Washington support their initiatives. Washington’s well-funded I-502, unfortunately, has incited lots of division within the cannabis community in that state, largely due to its inclusion of strict marijuana DUI limits which appear to be unsupported by science. Oregon’s Measure 80 trails by about seven points in the polls. It is the most favorable to cannabis consumers of the three initiatives, and makes the fewest concessions to law enforcement, but, unlike the other two, attracted little out-of-state funding from well-heeled supporters and marijuana reform groups.
|Ethan Nadelmann, Drug Policy Alliance: “A majority of Americans now appears to favor the legal regulation of marijuana”
“A majority of Americans now appears to favor the legal regulation of marijuana,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance
. “This is now a mainstream issue and the momentum favors reform.
“Most Americans now realize that marijuana prohibition is a counterproductive strategy that funnels millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens into the criminal justice system while wasting billions of taxpayer dollars,” Nadelmann said. “Many also understand that legally regulating marijuana will take power and profits out of the hands of criminal organizations both within this country and abroad while freeing up limited law enforcement resources.”
“If one of these initiatives passes, it will be a watershed moment in the decades-long struggle to end failed marijuana prohibition policies in this country,” said Nadelmann.
The initiatives have inspired a coalition that includes traditional drug policy reformers, law enforcement, organized labor, advocates for fiscal responsibility, mainstream civil rights organizations, advocates for children, and people from across the political spectrum.
Never before has support for the idea of making marijuana legal been so widespread. Last year, a Gallup poll found for the first time that 50 percent of Americans support making marijuana legal, with only 46 percent opposed.
Public support has shifted dramatically over the last two decades – especially over the last five years – as majorities of men, 18-49-year-olds, liberals, moderates, Independents, Democrats, and voters in Western, Midwestern and Eastern states now support making marijuana legal.
Last week, the annual FBI Uniform Crime Report found that police made 757,969 arrests in 2011 for marijuana law violations in the U.S., with 86 percent of these arrests for possession only. Marijuana arrests comprise one-half of all U.S. drug arrests.
When voters choose to legalize marijuana on a statewide level, what will be the response of the federal government? Will the Department of Justice run roughshod over the voters’ will, as it has on the medical marijuana issue? It’s going to be an interesting year.