History was made tonight in Colorado. The voters of the state chose to legalize marijuana. The Denver Post is projecting that Amendment 64 will be approved. With 38 percent reporting, the initiative is winning 53.1 percent yes to 46.9 percent no.
The amendment will make it legal for adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. It will also create a regulated system for the production and sale of marijuana in the state. The newly legalized marijuana market will be taxed and the amendment earmarked some of the new revenue for education.
Having a state legalize marijuana should start a national debate about our current marijuana laws. In less than a decade marijuana legalization has gone from a fringe political position to a policy supported by a majority of Americans. The approval of this initiative is a powerful sign that the politics surrounding marijuana reform have changed and it is now a winning position.
Marijuana will still be illegal under federal law so it is an open question what the federal government will do about Colorado legalizing marijuana. The vast majority of arrests are made by local officials and the federal government simply doesn’t have the law enforcement manpower to police minor possession uses.
Medical marijuana may prove to be a model for what the federal response will be. Medical marijuana is also still illegal under federal law. While federal agencies have done things to inhibit states’ medical marijuana programs, it has not stopped them from functioning for the most part.
The passage of Amendment 64 tonight will likely be viewed as the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition in the United States. Colorado is the first state where voters legalized marijuana, but given the trend in national polling it is not going to be the last.