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Voters In Colorado and Washington Make History: Vote To Repeal Cannabis Prohibition

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 7, 2012

    Voters in Colorado and Washington on Election Day in favor of ballot measures that remove criminal and civil penalties for the adult possession of cannabis. The votes mark the first time ever that voters have decided at the ballot box to abolish cannabis prohibition.

    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.

    State lawmakers in Colorado initially prohibited the possession of cannabis in 1917. Washington lawmakers initially outlawed the plant in 1923.

    Commenting on the historic votes, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “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.”

    Armentano continued: “The passage of these measures strikes significant blow to federal cannabis prohibition. Like alcohol prohibition before it, marijuana prohibition is a failed federal policy that delegates the burden of enforcement to the state and local police. Alcohol prohibition fell when a sufficient number of states enacted legislation repealing the state’s alcohol prohibition laws. With state police and prosecutors no longer engaging in the federal government’s bidding to enforce an unpopular law, the federal government had little choice but to abandon the policy altogether. Today, history begins to repeat itself.”

    Separate marijuana law reform measures proved to be equally popular among voters. In Massachusetts, 63 percent of voters approved Question 3, which eliminates statewide criminal and civil penalties related to the possession and use of up to a 60-day supply of cannabis by qualified patients. It also requires the state to create and regulate up to 35 facilities to produce and dispense cannabis to approved patients. Massachusetts is the 18th state since 1996 to authorize the physician-recommended use of cannabis.

    In Michigan, an estimated 65 percent of Detroit voters approved Measure M, which removes criminal penalties pertaining to the possession on private property of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults over age 21.

    A statewide ballot measure to legalize the therapeutic use of cannabis in Arkansas appears to have narrowly failed by a vote of 49 percent to 51 percent. In Montana, a referendum that sought to ease legislative restrictions on the state’s medical marijuana law also failed. Oregon’s Measure 80, which sought to allow for the state-licensed production and retail sale of cannabis to adults, garnered only 45 percent of the popular vote.

    The ballot measures in Colorado and Washington will take effect once the vote totals have been formally ratified, a process that typically takes up to 30 days.

    NORML will provide additional updates on various other local measures throughout the day. Stay tuned to the NORML blog for more information.

    110 Responses to “Voters In Colorado and Washington Make History: Vote To Repeal Cannabis Prohibition”

    1. I live in fl have chronic hep c and really need medical use . But here in the south i wonder if it will ever happen ? Times are changing and im two old to fool with the grow room thing i loved in my twentys my nerves cant take worrying about the law anymore i would love to see change come to my home state soon im so tired of having to get my herb from ” drug dealers” i cant tell u how bad i feel having to give my hard earned money over to guys who sell crack cocain and other real drugs because my medicin is illegal i hope and pray for change and i know right from wrong legalization is the right choice only then will this country truly control its real drug problems. Sincerly matter in destin fl.

    2. Having read this I believed it was rather enlightening.

      I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this information together.
      I once again find myself spending way too much
      time both reading and leaving comments. But so what,
      it was still worth it!

    3. PMan says:

      So Im a Wa resident. Guess what.. Here’s how the law plays out. You “can” recreationally use.. But employers will still slam you for drug tests… And still treat it as an illegal substance despite the law. Also.. Your not allowed to purchase it. Which.. Unless you guys have a magic wish ring.. Or find a huge sack while walking down the street certainly is a road block.

      So.. Here’s wa’s law. You can smoke it as long as your ok with being fired from you job.. And as long as you don’t get any smoke. You have to just look down at your arm and say… “Hey wow.. How’d that joint get there.. Guess Ill take a hit”. Then… YOu get fired from your job when they piss test you.

      Is it just me… Or did Wa just get totally ripped off. To me.. This is a cop-out law aimed mostly at having to spare the cops from busting people at huge venues like concerts.

      So if your ok with no job, and marijuana magically materializing sense you can’t buy it… You can smoke it.

      Crock of shit!!!!

      And here’s another thing… Outlaw piss testing marijuana in the work place if the state you live in has “legalized” it. I shouldn’t have to get fired from my job because I smoked a joint. And frankly to me, sense I have a good job, it’s worse then being arrested.

      [Editor's note: Legalization is better than prohibition, warts and all. Period. BTW, even in WA, and numerous other medical cannabis states, patients are NOT exempt from drug testing laws either.

      Undoubtedly, as cannabis becomes more and more legal, in more in more states, drug testing laws/practices for cannabis will abate.

      However, even if a product is legal, like tobacco, more and more employers test for it. Will cannabis be treated differently?

      No doubt that new legislation has to be introduced in states to create legal protections re testing and 'drug' use outside of the workplace.

      While cannabis consumers in WA (and CO) can't yet legally buy the herb in a retail shop, both states are on their projected targets of first of the year access of legal cannabis for adults.

      Lastly, the economic and moral benefits of legalization were immediately realized less than two weeks after the November elections when both states ceased arresting thousands of cannabis consumers monthly and with the prosecutions of hundreds more charged with cannabis crimes. Hundreds have also been let out of jail or prison post these historically important votes.]

    4. […] in 2012 had previously approved a statewide ballot measure authorizing the establishment of state-licensed marijuana producers and […]

    5. Nowayjose says:

      I agree. If employers were testing for previous alcohol consumption and terminating those who drank. The laws regarding testing would certainly be different. The tax revenue generated from legalized marijuana won’t be realized if our civil rights are authorized for violation. The argument that’s been used was to combat illegal drug use. With marijuana not being illegal it now becomes obvious to more Americans(WA,CO)that drug testing for legal substances is wrong. Now people are saying. What the heck gives someone the authority to violate my rights. Like we’re property.

    6. Mike says:

      Look up the United for Care petition sponsored by Morgan and Morgan. It just happened last week. Now we just need to vote come Nov. 4th!

    7. Gina Minton says:

      It is surely a failed policy to prohibit cannabis. We should rather focus on prohibiting the abuse of it.

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