The Beginning of the End of Marijuana Prohibition

Posted on: November 7, 2012

Barak Obama being reelected for a second term wasn’t the only thing that happened on November 6th. Two states, Colorado and Washington have just legalized marijuana for adults while Massachusetts has become our 18th medical marijuana state. As of now, about 1/3 of Americans are living in places with some form of legal marijuana, according to Americans for Safe Access.

To quote Allen St. Pierre, NORML’s Executive Director, “The beginning of the end… has begun.” The votes in Colorado and Washington represent the first time that voters have shown us at the ballot box that they’re ready to end marijuana prohibition.

NORML’s Deputy Director, Paul Armentano breaks it down for us:

In Colorado, 55 percent of voters decided in favor of Amendment 64, which allows for the legal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and/or the cultivation of up to six cannabis plants by those persons age 21 and over. Longer-term, the measure seeks to establish regulations governing the commercial production and distribution of marijuana by licensed retailers. Initial returns show the measure passing with 54 percent support.

In Washington, approximately 55 percent of voters decided in favor of I-502, which regulates the production and sale of limited amounts of marijuana for adults. The measure also removes criminal penalties specific to the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use. Initial returns indicate that 55 percent of voters backed the measure.

Amendment 64 and Initiative 502 provide adult cannabis consumers with unprecedented legal protections. Until now, no state law has defined cannabis as a legal commodity. Some state laws do provide for a legal exception that allows for certain qualified patients to possess specific amounts of cannabis as needed. But, until today, no state in modern history has classified cannabis itself as a legal product that may be lawfully possessed and consumed by adults.

The ballot measures in Colorado and Washington will take effect once the vote totals have been formally ratified, a process that could take several weeks.

Unfortunately, these victories didn’t come without a few defeats. Issue 5, which would have made Arkansas the first Southern state to embrace medical marijuana, was rejected as was Oregon’s Measure 80 which would have regulated cannabis and restored the rights to hemp. Montana’s Referendum 124, a referendum on Senate Bill 423 that all but repeals the medical marijuana law has also passed.

Kaliko Castille, Co-Director for Oregonians for Law Reform had this to say about Measure 80:

“Obviously, we’re bummed that Measure 80 did not pass. However, we’re very happy that Oregonians for Law Reform helped to build some momentum in the final stretch of the campaign, that can now be harnessed in an attempt to make Oregon the third state to legalize marijuana for adults, either in 2014 or 2016.”

Erik Altieri, NORML’s Communications Director and Chapter Cordinator commented on Referendum 124:

It is unfortunate that we have come to this point in Montana because the legislature continued to second guess the will of the people as voiced through the state’s voter approved medical cannabis law. After attempting to strip most of the benefits from the preexisting program legislatively, it was put before the people in the form of an incredibly confusing ballot question. NORML and our allies will continue to fight for Montana’s patients and hope we can push for future reforms that would restore to ailing Montanans safe access to the medicine they need.

This is a crucial time for the movement to reform our marijuana laws. We need support now more than ever. Show Texas that you’re serious about legalizing marijuana by joining DFW NORML today. Already a member? Make a donation by purchasing a t-shirt, wristband or gold marijuana leaf lapel pin at the DFW NORML Online Store. Wear it proudly and together we’ll continue ending cannabis prohibition one Texan at a time.

Shaun McAlister
Executive Director @ DFW NORML