US Election Brings Progressive Change to Marijuana Mentality

Believe it or not, Colorado and Washington have become the first states to legalize recreational marijuana since it was first federally prohibited in 1937.  Its not medical marijuana or decriminalization; its legal cannabis. Colorado became the first state, passing Amendment 64 with 54 percent of the vote in favor.  This makes it legal for anyone over the age of 21 to possess marijuana and for businesses to sell it.  Washington then followed passing Initiative 502 with 56 percent of the vote in support.  This measure on the ballot legalizes small amounts of marijuana for people over 21.  In both states, people over 21 can personally possess up to an ounce (28 grams). That’s way more than Amsterdam’s allowance of 5 grams!

The pro-pot campaigns won over voters (not just hippie pot smokers!) through their arguments about why marijuana should be legalized.  These ranged from reducing the cost of law enforcement and weakening drug cartels to adding tax revenue.  The campaigns featured law enforcement officials addressing the war on drugs, commenting that there was no reason to prohibit marijuana when far more destructive drugs like alcohol were legal.

Before celebrating too quickly, backers of legalization need to wait to see how the federal government responds. Although the state law now allows for the sale and purchase of marijuana, federal law still prohibits it.  In the past, the Obama administration has enforced crackdowns against pot dispensaries and greenhouses believed to be involved in large-scale drug trade under the pretense of supplying medical cannabis patients in those legal states. However, the presidential candidates have been accused of ignoring the war on drugs during campaigning. Only time will tell how the federal government will react.  Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, against legalization, commented, “The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will.  This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through.  That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or goldfish too quickly.”

In Massachusetts, voters approved Question 3 to allow marijuana possession for medical purposes.  By a wide margin, Massachusetts joined the 17 other states.

The success of Washington and Colorado show the progressive change of mind regarding marijuana. Hopefully the states will work effectively on implementing these laws so other states and other countries will see the possibility of legalized marijuana in society.