It is 4/20 again and time for my annual review of the progress the marijuana reform movement has made in the past 365 days. Without a doubt this was the best year for the movement so far, in the future it may be looked back on as the single most significant year in the long process of ending marijuana prohibition.
Legalization in Colorado and Washington State – Obviously the big accomplishment was voters in not one, but two states deciding to legalize marijuana. In Colorado, Amendment 64 was approved with 55.3 percent of the vote, and in Washington State Initiative 502 won with 55.7 percent of the vote. In both states now marijuana is legal for adults over 21 and in the near future retail marijuana stores should soon open.
The victories where huge on multiple levels. They proved voters are ready to support legalization and both states will serve as laboratories of democracy. They will show the rest of the country that legalization is a smart policy and how it should be done.
Public Opinion – The other big development this year is that two of the biggest national pollsters found for the first time more than half the country thinks marijuana should be legal. In December Quinnipiac found 51 percent think marijuana should be legal, and earlier this month Pew Research found 52 percent support for legalization. Combined with the recent victories at the ballot box there is a growing sense that the tipping point has been reached.
Medical Marijuana – In addition to the the big victories, there have been numerous smaller advances. The Maryland legislature approved a very tightly regulate medical marijuana law, and last November Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved a medical marijuana initiative. Given how well marijuana reform has done on the ballot in the state, it is likely to be a top target for a full legalization initiative in 2014 or 2016.
Decriminalization – Since the last 4/20 the Connecticut legislature has decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana.
The Bad News – The most significant setback for the movement over the past 365 days was the narrow failure of Measure 80, which would have legalized marijuana in Oregon. It lost 46.6 percent yes to 53.4 percent no. Even though it suffered from real concerns about how it was drafted and an underfunded campaign, it still did surprisingly well. The silver lining is that the relatively close election results spurred the Oregon legislature to take a more serious look at legalizing marijuana.
Image by u s o t s u k i u s a g i under Creative Commons license