A state ballot measure legalizing marijuana for recreational use passed Nov. 6 in both Colorado and Washington state, in what might be the biggest statement of the 2012 Election aside from President Obama’s re-election and same-sex marriage.
In Colorado, the new amendment would allow adults 21 and older to legally purchase one ounce of marijuana as soon as the end of the month, while in Washington voters approved the selling and taxing of small amounts of marijuana-related products to adults beginning Dec. 6. A similar initiative was rejected in Oregon.
Despite opposing the measure himself, Colorado’s governor John Hickenlooper released a statement Tuesday night saying that “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 gold fish too quickly.” In a KUOW radio interview Nov. 7, Washington governor Chris Gregoire also expressed concern about federal reactions saying that “The jury is out on what happens. Meanwhile, my job as governor is to do what the people of the state of Washington have said they want done.”
The approved measures mark a historical point on the weed wars timeline and comes as a victory for marijuana advocates, regardless of the uphill battle both states will face with the federal government.
“Legalization initiatives in the more distant past had failed by large margins,” writes the Initiative & Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California in its Election 2012 report. “Legalization advocates hope that the experience of Colorado and Washington will demonstrate that decriminalization will not give rise to greater crime and addiction, and encourage other states to follow suit. The wild card in all of this is the position that will be taken by federal authorities because federal law prohibits possession of marijuana.”
States legalizing medical marijuana also increased this year. With new initiatives approved in 2012 (Massachusetts passing Question 3 on Nov. 6 which will take effect 2013), 18 states have now legalized the drug for medical use since California voters first approved Proposition 215 in 1996.
This isn’t the first time cannabis has burned up the news wires in 2012. Here’s a look back at pot in pictures from this year’s smoking headlines.
Additional reporting by Stokely Baksh.