A cannabis plant.
Yesterday was a big step forward for drug legalization as voters in four states approved referendum initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana. These include Arizona, New Jersey, Montana, and South Dakota. Voters in Mississippi approved limited initiatives to legalize medical marijuana. All but the South Dakota measure passed with big double-digit margins, and even South Dakota got legalization with a solid 6-7 points. It is especially noteworthy that legalization was so easily prevalent in deep red Montana and South Dakota as well as the red / trendy purple state of Arizona.
Yesterday’s victories build on previous successes in legalizing marijuana in recent election cycles, including 2018. Once New Jersey lawmakers pass the Implementing Rules for Question 1, there will be a total of 1t states where recreational marijuana is legal ( plus District) of Columbia), which covers a third of the American population.
The state of Oregon went further and was the first state to decriminalize the non-commercial possession of virtually all previously illicit drugs. Measure 110 was also carried out at a considerable distance (58-41). Decriminalization is not the same as full legalization. Still, it’s a big step forward. If it catches on in other states, it could mark the beginning of the end of the entire drug war, which is seriously undermining freedom, threatening our constitutional rights, and causing great harm to the poor and minorities.
Of course, marijuana possession remains illegal under federal law. However, this law will become increasingly difficult to enforce without government cooperation. Furthermore, the growing momentum of legalization could finally convince Congress and anyone who ultimately wins the presidential election to lift the federal ban.
In the meantime, those interested in these topics should consult co-blogger Jonathan Adler’s excellent new book, Marihuana Federalism. As Jonathan and other authors in this volume show, legalization at the state level has had a significant impact, although it has not – yet – led to the complete end of the war on weeds.