Voters Make Marijuana History

November 7, 2012


Last night brought exciting signs that America is finally ready to choose sensible policies over draconian ones that deny sick people access to the medicine they need, and others that clog our criminal justice system with nonviolent marijuana users. 

Voters in Colorado and Washington made history when they took a stand for sensible drug law reform, choosing to legalize small quantities of marijuana for adults.  Arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana constitute one of the most common drug-related points of entry into the already bloated criminal justice system anddisproportionately target people of color despite the fact that white people use marijuana at higher rates. 


While in Washinton Initiative 502 was passed, which legalizes, taxes, and regulates small quantities of marijuana for adults age 21 and older. For the first time, the citizenry of two states have voted to legalize marijuana.  

“Washington’s new law provides a safe and smart alternative to marijuana prohibition. It advances individual liberty and will eliminate unreasonable arrests, which have often targeted people of color. And the revenue it generates will help increase public health efforts to stem drug abuse. The ACLU looks forward to working with state and federal officials and New Approach Washington sponsors to ensure the law is fully and fairly implemented.”  


Changing Colorado law to regulate marijuana like alcohol so that private, limited, regulated and taxed use and growing of marijuana for adults 21 and older is legal just makes good sense. It’s:

  • Fair: The current system and war on drugs – including marijuana – isn’t fair because it disproportionally impacts youth, lower income individuals and people of color;
  • Fiscally prudent: Colorado would come out $50 million ahead by saving the more than $25 million per year spent to arrest, prosecute and jail non-violent marijuana users; and
  • Protects kids: Taking marijuana out of the underground market and putting it behind regulated retail counters will make it harder for teens to access it. 

Meanwhile in Massachusetts, voters insisted that patients’ ability to access the most effective medicine should trump outdated political arguments and affirmatively chose to legalize the humanitarian use of medical marijuana. 


This law will make patients safer and more secure, and will spare patients who are already seriously ill from having to deal with a black market to get a medication that helps them.The law also gives doctors the right to speak openly with their patients about this valuable treatment option. The new law does not go into effect until 1/2/13, and there is a 120-day period for making new regulations on how to implement the law. 

Contemporary scientific evidence confirms the therapeutic effects of medical marijuana, which can provide unique relief to people suffering from serious conditions, including cancer and AIDS, when no other medicine is as effective or free of side effects such as nausea or loss of appetite. Patients in Massachusetts will now be able to join the nearly one million nationwide already using medical marijuana as recommended by their doctors and in accordance with state laws.