2012 marked what some have categorized as a turning point in the fight against marijuana prohibition. Both Colorado and Washington voted to legalize the drug, medicinal marijuana initiatives passed in even more locations and the federal courts considered arguments in reclassifying marijuana to a Schedule II narcotic which would lift many of the current research and development prohibitions on the drug. With so many victories in what feels to be a short time, what is next for the reform movement?
According to Reuters, reform advocates are looking at possible ballot measures in 2014 or 2016 in places like Oregon and California, states that were among the first in the country to provide for medicinal marijuana use. Both states recently rejected broader legalization efforts, but as momentum shifts in the direction of marijuana reform, supporters think it’s time for a second try. “Legalization is more or less repeating the history of medical marijuana,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “If you want to know which states are most likely to legalize marijuana, then look at the states that were the first to legalize medical marijuana.”
California in particular is a state to watch in this area. California voters have twice rejected legalization efforts, first in 1972 and most recently in 2010 when voters rejected a ballot measure in the midterm elections. California’s 2010 ballot measure failed to sway voters because it would have left regulation to a hodgepodge of local governments, instead of a uniform set of state rules, Dale Gieringer, director of the California branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told Reuters.
This month, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom became one of America’s top state officials to call for the reform of marijuana laws when he told the New York Times that laws against the drug “just don’t make sense anymore.”
Not surprisingly though, law enforcement remains mostly unified in opposition to the reform movement. “I have yet to hear a legalization proponent talk about how society will be enhanced, how the real social problems facing our country will be improved by legalizing yet another substance that compromises people’s five senses,” said John Lovell, government relations manager for the California Police Chiefs Association.
Marijuana reform can, and should, be viewed as much in terms of social policy as well as public health policy. And from that vantage point the reformers have an edge. Much like gay marriage, marijuana reform finds wide support among the younger generation of voters and that tolerance, built into an appreciation of the failed war on drugs and its tragic socio-economic consequences suggests marijuana legalization is a coming reality that law enforcement must just deal with. And with proponents eying legalization in California in as soon as next year, it’s a reality that will be here sooner rather than later.
Photo from Editor B via flickr.