Pubdate: Tue, 18 Dec 2012
Source: Rolling Stone (US)
Copyright: 2012 Rolling Stone
Author: Tim Dickinson


Why Oregon, California And More
Are Likely To Follow Colorado And Washington Toward

The Berlin Wall of pot
prohibition seems to be crumbling before our eyes.

By fully legalizing marijuana through direct democracy, Colorado and
Washington have fundamentally changed the national conversation about
cannabis. As many as 58 percent of Americans now believe marijuana
should be legal. And our political establishment is catching on.
Former president Jimmy Carter came out this month and endorsed
taxed-and-regulated weed. "I'm in favor of it," Carter said. "I think
it's OK." In a December 5th letter to Attorney General Eric Holder,
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) suggested it might
be possible "to amend the Federal Controlled Substances Act to allow
possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, at least in jurisdictions
where it is legal under state law." Even President Obama hinted at a
more flexible approach to prohibition, telling 20/20's Barbara Walters
that the federal government was unlikely to crack down on recreational
users in states where pot is legal, adding, "We've got bigger fish to

Encouraged by the example of Colorado and Oregon, states across the
country are debating the merits of treating marijuana less like
crystal meth and more like Jim Beam. Here are the next seven states
most likely to legalize it:

1) Oregon Oregon could have produced a trifecta for pot legalization
on election day. Like Washington and Colorado, the state had a
marijuana legalization bid on the ballot in 2012, but it failed 54-46.
The pro-cannabis cause was dogged by poor organization: Advocates
barely qualified the initiative for the ballot, and could not attract
billionaire backers like George Soros and Peter Lewis, who helped
bankroll the legalization bit in Washington.

But given that Oregon's biggest city, Portland, will be just across
the Columbia River from prevalent, legal marijuana, the state
legislature will be under pressure to create a framework for the
drug's legal use in Oregon - in particular if the revenue provisions
of Washington's law are permitted to kick in and lawmakers begin to
watch Washington profit from the "sin taxes" on Oregon potheads. If
lawmakers stall, state voters will likely have the last word soon
enough. Consider that even cannabis-crazy Colorado failed in its first
legalization bid back in 2006.

"We have decades of evidence that says prohibition does not work and
it's counterproductive," said Peter Buckley, co-chair of the Oregon
state legislature's budget committee. For Buckley, it's a matter of
dollars and common sense: "There's a source of revenue that's
reasonable that is rational that is the right policy choice for our
state," he said. "We are going to get there on legalization."

2) California California is unaccustomed to being a follower on
marijuana liberalization. Its landmark medical marijuana initiative in
1996 sparked a revolution that has reached 18 states and the District
of Columbia. And the artful ambiguity of that statute has guaranteed
easy access to the drug - even among Californians with minor aches and

In 2010, the state appeared to be on track to fully legalize and tax
pot with Proposition 19. The Obama administration warned of a
crackdown, and the state legislature beat voters to the punch with a
sweeping decriminalization of pot that treats possession not as a
misdemeanor but an infraction, like a parking ticket, with just a $100
fine. In a stunningly progressive move, that law also applies to
underage smokers. And removing normal teenage behavior from the
criminal justice system has contributed to a staggering decline in
youth "crime" in California of nearly 20 percent in 2011.

The grandaddy of less-prohibited pot is again a top candidate to fully
legalize cannabis. Prop 19 failed 53-47, and pot advocates are
determined not to run another initiative in an "off-year" election,
likely putting ballot-box legalization off for four years. "2016 is a
presidential election year, which brings out more of the youth vote we
need," said Amanda Reiman, who heads up the Drug Policy Alliance's
marijuana reform in California.

Economics could also force the issue sooner. Eager for new tax
revenue, the state legislature could seek to normalize the marijuana
trade. There's no Republican impediment: Democrats now have a
supermajority in Sacramento, and Governor Brown has forcefully
defended the right of states to legalize without the interference of
federal "gendarmes."

3) Nevada

Whether it's gambling or prostitution, Nevada is famous for regulating
that which other states prohibit. When it comes to pot, the state has
already taken one swing at legalization in 2006, with an initiative
that failed 56-44. "They got closer than we did in Colorado that
year," says Mason Tvert, who co-chaired Colorado's initiative this
year and whose first statewide effort garnered just 41 percent of the

For prominent state politicians, the full legalization, taxation and
regulation of weed feels all but inevitable. "Thinking we're not going
to have it is unrealistic," assemblyman Tick Segerblom of Las Vegas
said in November. "It's just a question of how and when."

4) Rhode Island Pot watchers believe little Rhode Island may be the
first state to legalize through the state legislature instead of a
popular referendum. "I'm hoping this goes nowhere," one prominent
opponent in the state House told the Boston Globe. "But I think we're
getting closer and closer to doing this."

Back in June 2012, lawmakers in Providence jumped on the
decriminalization bandwagon, replacing misdemeanor charges for adult
recreational use with a civil fine of $150. (Youth pay the same fine
but also have to attend a drug education class and perform community

In the wake of Colorado and Washington's new state laws, Rhode Island
has joined a slate of New England states that are vowing to vote on
tax-and-regulate bills. A regulated marijuana market in Rhode Island
could reap the state nearly $30 million in new tax revenue and reduced
law enforcement costs. "Our prohibition has failed," said Rep. Edith
Ajello of Providence, who is sponsoring the bill. "Legalizing and
taxing it, just as we did to alcohol, is the way to do it."

5) Maine Maine's legislature has recently expanded decriminalization
and is moving on a legalization-and-regulation bill that could bring
the state $8 million a year in new revenue. "The people are far ahead
of the politicians on this," said Rep. Diane Russell of Portland.
"Just in the past few weeks we've seen the culture shift

State legislators in Maine, as in other direct-democracy states, are
actually wary of the ballot initiative process and may work to preempt
the voters. A legalization scheme devised by lawmakers, after all, is
likely to produce tighter regulation and more revenue than a bill
dreamed up by pot consumers themselves.

6) Alaska Alaska is already a pothead's paradise, and the state could
move quickly to bring order to its ambiguous marijuana law. Cannabis
has been effectively legal in Alaska since 1975, when the state
supreme court, drawing on the unique privacy protections of the Alaska
constitution, declared that authorities can't prohibit modest amounts
of marijuana in the home of state residents.

That gave Alaskans the right to have up to four ounces - and 24 plants
- - in their homes. Following a failed bid to fully legalize pot at the
ballot box in 2004 (the measure fell 56-44), the state legislature
attempted to enforce prohibition, outlawing all weed in 2006. But
citing the 1975 precedent, a judge later ruled the home exemption must
be respected, though she sought to limit legal possession to a single

If taxation and regulation take root in nearby Washington, and perhaps
more important in neighboring British Columbia (where legalization is
also being considered), a ballot initiative in Alaska could win in an

7) Vermont Last year, Vermont finally normalized its medical marijuana
law, establishing a system of government-sanctioned dispensaries. In
November, the state's Democratic governor, Peter Shumlin, just cruised
to re-election while strongly backing marijuana decriminalization. The
city of Burlington, meanwhile, passed a nonbinding resolution in
November calling for an end to prohibition - with 70 percent support.
The Green Mountain State has already embraced single-payer universal
health care. Legal pot cannot be far behind.
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D