Colorado has become the first state in the history of the U.S. to legalize marijuana. Voters in the Rocky Mountain State decided it’s high time to just get over 75 years of nonsense around the cannabis plant.
According to early returns, 53 percent of state voters approved Amendment 64, which, according to its sponsors, will restore some sanity to Colorado’s marijuana laws by treating cannabis much more like alcohol and less like an illegal drug.
“The victories in Colorado and Washington are of historic significance not just for Americans but for all countries debating the future of marijuana prohibition in their own countries,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “This is now a mainstream issue, with citizens more or less divided on the issue but increasingly inclined to favor responsible regulation of marijuana over costly and ineffective prohibitionist policies.”
While the restrictions are stringent enough that some in the medical marijuana and recreational cannabis communities opposed Amendment 64 on principle, the chance to become the first state in the union to legalize proved too attractive to pass up, for the majority of the state’s voters.
Never before has support for 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. – 86 percent of these arrests were for possession only. Marijuana arrests comprise one-half of all U.S. drug arrests.
Other reform measures also prevailed in California and Massachusetts. California’s Proposition 36 – which will significantly reform the state’s notorious “three-strikes” law – is expected to pass by a wide margin. Moving forward, Californians convicted of a third nonviolent felony – including drug law violations – will no longer receive a mandatory 25-to-life sentence. The Drug Policy Action Issues PAC was one of the primary financial contributors to the Prop. 36 campaign.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts became the 18th U.S. state since 1996 to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.