Colorado, Washington legalise both recreational and medical cannabis

Cannabis reform sweeps the states. Is the UK next?

Well it was a long night for NORML UK poll watchers, but we wouldn’t have missed a second of it for anything. Americans made history when voters in Colorado and Washington voted to legalise marijuana full stop by sizable margins, while medical marijuana legislation triumphed in a veritable landslide in Massachussets. Although cannabis reform did receive some setbacks this year, the historic nature of our victories only hastens the inevitable–and puts the squeeze on our own politicians to justify their recalcitrance.

Let’s look at the final tallies and what’s next in the battle for reform.

Legalise It

Colorado became the first state in the nation to fully legalise cannabis, six years after voters rejected similar legislation.  The final vote settled at 53.3% to 46.7%, a significant improvement over 2006’s 60-40% defeat. Amendment 64 allows Colorado to regulate cannabis like alcohol and sets out provisions for marijuana facilities including industrial grows and commercial shops. Adults 21 and over will be able to purchase cannabis with a valid picture ID, exactly like alcohol, while providing cannabis to minors remains a crime.

Personal grows of up to six mature plants are now legal, as is the possession and gifting of up to one ounce of cannabis. Driving under the influence remains a crime.

An excise tax will be placed on wholesale cannabis sales, and the first $40 million raised annually are required to go to building public schools. “Think of the children” indeed!

Read the full text of Amendment 64 here.
Fast on Colorado’s heels came Washington’s passage of Initiative 502, ringing in at an impressive 55% to 44%. This was a pleasant surprise given a decriminalisation intiative failed to even make the ballot in 2010. However, I-502 is more controversial among reformers than Colorado’s Amendment 64, as well as being more restrictive. While personal grows are now legal, “marijuana producers” must purchase a $250 license; unlicensed grows are still considered criminal. Cannabis producers and processors may not run retail operations, in a move modeled on the division of hard liquor producers, processors, and retailers.

The most controversial aspect of I-502, Part V, criminalises the operation of a motor vehicle by someone with a blood alcohol content above 5.00 in the case of 21+ drivers and 0.00 for minors. These “driving under the influence” provisions have been wildly unpopular in the past, but did not deter voters this year.

While the initiative gives the Washington State Liquor Control Board authority over most aspects of cannabis regulation, it also requires that the board justify its decisions in accordance with the best scientific evidence available. Part IV earmarks tax revenues in the following proportions: 25% for drug abuse treatment and education, 55% for health care, 19% for the general state fund, and (most interestingly) 1% for marijuana research at the University of Washington and Washington State University. That’s definitely a bonus!

I-502 is a very dense law, and only time will tell how its provisions play out in practice. Will its many provisions trip up reform, or spare Washington from the dearth of effective regulations that has often plagued California? NORML UK will be following this one closely for indications of how UK reforms should proceed.

Cannabis referendum in Washington

Cannabis prohibition coming to an end in the USA.

Read the full text of I-502 here. Sensible Washington has an extensive critical review of the law’s potential weaknesses.
Unfortunately Oregon’s Measure 80, which would have regulated cannabis like alcohol as well as establishing a regulated hemp industry, was defeated 55% to 45%.  Arguably the most progressive of the cannabis ballot measures, and the only one to promote industrial hemp, Measure 80 always faced an uphill battle.  After qualifying in July, leaving little time to convince voters, the campaign only managed to raise $38,000 since then. Campaign head Paul Stanford cut a controversial–and apparently untrustworthy–figure, having been accused of bilking his cannabis nonprofit and marijuana donors to deal with a variety of tax and finance issues. Alas, it was not to be in 2012.

Read the full text of Measure 80 here.

Medical Marijuana

Massachusetts became the 18th state to legalise medical marijuana with its passage of Question 3. This was a true blow out at 63% to 37%, a huge win for the MMJ movement. The measure allows patients diagnosed with “debilitating” medical conditions to obtain a doctor’s recommendation that will allow the possession of up to 60 days worth of cannabis (to be determined by the Department of Public Health), the designation of caregivers, and the formation of nonprofit treatment centres which can grow, process, and distribute medical cannabis.

Read the full text of Question 3 here.

Sadly, two states defeated or set back medical marijuana on Tuesday. Montana’s Referendum 124 to gut the state’s medical marijuana programme passed 57% to 43%. Arkansas narrowly rejected medical marijuana by defeating Issue 5 by just 2% of the vote, although such a tiny margin does offer a glimmer of hope in an otherwise severely conservative state. Neither loss comes as a surprise in either conservative state, but the figures are definitely surmountable.

Read the full text of Issue 5 here and Referendum 124 here.

All in all, the 2012 Us elections proved historic and also frustrating. Gains for medical marijuana patients were lost in Montana and rejected in Alabama, while Oregon seems to be waiting on better legislation and a more organised campaign. Nevertheless, Colorado and Washington did what many thought impossible: legalised the production, sale, and consumption of cannabis for ALL adults. According to a Mexican study released days before the election, these two ballot measures alone could cost Mexican drug cartels as much as $3.265 billion. If that isn’t reason to cheer, we don’t know what is!

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  1. I hope so but think even medical marijuana in the UK might be the first step if we get it but comes down to money pharmaceutical company’s have a lot influence on parliament as half there have investments in them,take gw a medicine for m.s that irritates the stomach causes blisters in the mouth as it is alcohol based wich m.s suffers find irritates their stomachs….

  2. Well done to everyone who voted, organised or campaigned (even if their initiative did not win). 2014 will see a plethora of states going for legalisation – federal law could fall at any time – especially if Obama stays out of it. Other countries will find it very hard to keep up the rhetoric if this happens.

    By the way has anyone seen any coverage in the UK Press ? If it was a bad idea surely they would be expressing disgust or ridicule but as far as I can tell they are silent. BBC had a reporter in Washington but he did not mention I-502. Maybe Dimbleby mentioned it at 3 AM or something. Silence (as with politicians) means they are prepared to change course if they need to ! After all if prohibition was the right thing to do and saving us from evil the politicians would still be shouting about it and not ducking questions .

  3. What a breakthrough! The time is near, we need to step up our game here in the UK. I can smell the freedom! (and it is a sweet terpene smell 😉 )

  4. Its interesting use of tabloid type misleading headlines……..”Reform sweeps the States”?

    Hardly – two states out of fifty, Four percent of the population with a little over 2% voting in favour on a turn out of 56%………which makes a bit over 1% of the American population.

    If the Daily Mail had done a similar headline in reverse there would have been outrage on this site.

  5. I dont think the UK is in anyway comparable to the USA. They have the largest prison population in the world. the death penalty and a legal system based on a written constitution. They also have one of the msot expensive and inefficent healthcare systems in the world where approximately between 30- 40,000 die annually from a lack of basic healthcare. They have the highest maternal mortality, highest infant mortality , lowest vaccination rates , obesity. premature death rates, highest teenage pregnacy rates and one of the shortest life expectancies in the developed world. So unable to afford healthcare smoking dried up plants on the pretence it is a panacea for every ailment under the sun but secondly as a registered user it conveys protection from use, cultivation and positive drug tests

    “Marijuana is not the harmless herb many believe it is, but a powerful drug with a variety of effects. It can produce adverse mental, emotional, behavioral and physical changes, and contrary to popular notions, it is addictive. Of the 7.1 million Americans age 12 and older with a substance use disorder related to an illicit drug in 2009, 4.3 million or 60.5 percent were dependent on or abused marijuana. Marijuana was by far the most commonly reported drug of abuse among this population, and nearly equal to all other illegal drugs combined.” Dr. DuPont was the first Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse

    • However “cannabis reform sweeping the states” is somewhat tabloid. Thuis was two states out of fifty , representing 4% of the population . 57% average voter turn out and 55% in favour – adds up to 1.25% of the population.
      Is this not the kind of headline you would shout down the Daily Mail over?

        • I think that this is the from the same stable as ” drug legislation has been a complete failure” when over 90% of the population doesn’t use illegal drugs. In which case I am not entirely sure what the methadone program would be termed when it is involved in the majority of drug deaths and has a “success rate” of getting people off drugs of less than 2%.

          Regarding celebrating it is likely to be non implementable and California has recently closed most of the cannabis dispensaries as they were simply being used for healthy young adults to obtain drugs and the ensuing crime from this legal outlets was costing more than any potential profits from taxation.

          And just in case you missed it here is a sensible quote about cannabis

          “Marijuana is not the harmless herb many believe it is, but a powerful drug with a variety of effects. It can produce adverse mental, emotional, behavioral and physical changes, and contrary to popular notions, it is addictive”

          Having more addicts and users is hardly a cause for celebration.

  6. Washington and Colorado DID NOT LEGALISE CANNABIS!!!
    There are so many controls and restrictions on it that it amounts to nothing more than loosened prohibition, but prohibition nevertheless.
    You can’t grow as much as you want! You can’t buy as much as you want! You can’t sell as much as you want! You can’t take it over State lines or sell it to another country! You have to have a licence to grow or sell it but can’t do both!
    I can grow my own tobacco in my garden without ASKING PERMISSION from anyone.
    I can make my own beer or wine in my own home without ASKING PERMISSION from anyone.
    I can buy as much Whiskey from a shop as I want without ASKING PERMISSION from anyone.
    I can carry as much of these things as I physically can, around the streets, without the need to justify myself to anyone.
    You have to be 16 to buy cigarettes in the UK but no particular age to smoke them.
    You have to be 18 in the UK to buy alcohol, but only 5 years old to drink it in a restaurant with your meal, and there’s no age for drinking it in your own home.
    So why all the restrictions on a relatively harmless plant like Cannabis? CONTROL
    Don’t believe me? I can buy, quite legally, opium poppies from my local gardening centre and grow as many of them as I want in my garden, (as many old people often do during the Summer in the UK) without fear of my home being raided by Jack-Booted Police Officers smashing in through the front door with a battering ram and barking dogs terrorising the kids. There isn’t even a law restricting me from using the opium from the flowers, at any age. Nor from walking down the street with a massive bag full of them.(cultivation of opium has restrictions on it)
    Cannabis is NOT Legalised anywhere yet. It’s merely relaxed Prohibition, but Prohibition it still is!!!
    Don’t be fooled.
    Tomatoes are legal. Buy them anywhere/any time/any age.
    Tobacco and Alcohol have some restrictions.
    Cannabis is Prohibited, with some minor relaxed conditions.

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