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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Marijuana's Victory in Colorado, Washington Means California Will Follow Soon

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2012 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge Coming to a state near you?
  • Coming to a state near you?

An end to America's experiment with marijuana prohibition is in sight, after voters in Colorado and Washington approved re-legalizing the plant Tuesday. 

In California, where voters said "no" to adult-legal marijuana in 2010, the decisive passages of Amendment 64 in Colorado (54 percent yes to 46 percent no) and I-502 in Washington (55 percent to 45 percent), marijuana advocates watched the out-of-state action with delight. "Happy days are here again," said Ellen Komp, deputy director of California NORML, as she watched the results come in. "This is the win we need."

No legalization measures reached

Californian's ballots this year, in large part because potential financial backers chose to put their money elsewhere. These two wins

make it "exponentially" more likely big money will return to the Golden

State, which means it's a matter of time for legalization here, too,

Komp said.

After all, with support for marijuana legalization polling at 50 percent, marijuana is more popular than Mitt Romney.

Golden State denizens took a bite out of the Drug War just the same on Tuesday. Voters in California approved a revision to the state's three-strikes law. Now, a third-felony conviction for marijuana possession, cultivation, or sales won't saddle the offender with the possibility of life in prison. 

In Colorado, Amendment 64 cruised to victory despite opposition from elected officials. Support from the Seattle City Council, the King's County sheriff, and a former United States prosecutor helped push I-504 to victory. 

"The vote puts Washington and Colorado to the left of the Netherlands on marijuana law," the Seattle Times reported. 

Medical marijuana was also on the ballot elsewhere in the country. A medical measure lost in deep Romney-red Arkansas, but by only 4 percentage points. But in Massachusetts, where Romney was hosting his Election Night party in Boston, voters approved the medical use of marijuana by an overwhelming margin, 63 percent to 37 percent, or by 700,000 votes out of 2.7 million cast.

Massachusetts is the 18th state to allow for the medical use of marijuana. California, where the Compassionate Use Act passed in 1996, was the first.

In 2010, opposition from California's medical cannabis providers hampered Prop. 19. But a letter in October from United States Attorney General Eric Holder, in which the nation's top cop warned that the Justice Department would "vigorously enforce" the Controlled Substances Act even if the state legalized marijuana, also had a chilling effect. 

No such warning was issued to voters in Washington and Colorado, despite nine former DEA heads issuing Holder a plea to get involved. 

A legalization measure in Oregon did lose. But Measure 80 had almost no campaign, only $500,000 to put it on the ballot, and no cash left to promote it.

"I'm smelling a mandate, even if we haven't swept," Komp said. "Two states at once? This is a game-changer."

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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