Uruguay – In December President José Mujica signed a law legalizing marijuana in Uruguay sparking an international conversation about reform. Becoming the first country in the hemisphere to legalize marijuana Uruguay could serve as a nucleus for change in Latin American.
Colorado – The other major change was legal recreational marijuana sales finally started in Colorado this January. Fortunately, there was no effort by the federal government to stop these businesses and no major problems have emerged. In fact, the data so far is very positive. Significant tax revenue is coming in, pot arrests have plummeted, support for legalization among Coloradans went up, and the state is experiencing a tourism boost. Hopefully, as other people see how well things are going in Colorado it will create pressure for change elsewhere
Alaska – An initiative to legalize marijuana qualified for the ballot this year in Alaska. The people will get to vote on it either this August or November. Polling shows it is on track to be approved.
In the past year states adopted real medical marijuana laws: New Hampshire, Illinois and Maryland. That brings the total of medical marijuana states up to 21 plus the District of Colombia. In addition, a medical marijuana amendment made the ballot in Florida for the 2014 November election and it is polling very well.
Several legislatures have also moved to decriminalize marijuana since the last 4/20 making possession of small amounts of marijuana merely a civil fine. Vermont adopted their decriminalization in May, and in Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed both the medical marijuana law and a marijuana decriminalization law just this last Monday. In addition, the D.C. Council approved one of the best decriminalization bills in the country but because of the unjust way Congress has control over all local laws in the district it will not go into effect until the 60-day Congressional review period is over.
Finally, also worth mentioning is that this past February the federal government finally took a baby step towards allowing American farmers to grow hemp again. Included in the farm bill was a provision that allows the creation of pilot programs in ten states to grow industrial hemp for research purposes.
This year I also publish my book After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy. To celebrate 4/20 the ebook version is on sale for $1.99 until Monday.
Image by Thomas Hawk under Creative Commons license