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Dear State Politicians, It Is Time You Embrace Marijuana Legalization

If governors and state legislatures take their job as representatives of the people seriously, it is time they start listening to the will of the people.

There shouldn’t be the need for another marijuana legalization ballot initiative in this country. Over the past two election cycles local organizations and national groups, like Marijuana Policy Project and Drug Policy Alliance, already have done everything necessary to make their case to governors and state legislatures around the country.There shouldn’t be the need for another marijuana legalization ballot initiative in this country. Over the past two election cycles local organizations and national groups, like Marijuana Policy Project and Drug Policy Alliance, already have done everything necessary to make their case to governors and state legislatures around the country.

During the 2012 election they proved that polls showing majority support for marijuana legalization in this country were real. It isn’t just vapid support for a hypothetical idea that would quickly evaporate once the details start getting discussed, but an indication of a serious desire for concrete change. The big wins in Colorado and Washington state showed voters will enthusiastically support smart proposals to legalize, tax, and strictly regulate marijuana.

Over the last two years, the implementation in Colorado and Washington state proved marijuana legalization can be done and the sky won’t fall. The new laws succeeded in the goals of reducing minor marijuana arrests and creating new tax revenue for the state, while producing very few problems.

Finally, the election successes last week in Washington D.C., Oregon, and Alaska should have removed any doubt that marijuana legalization is going to to continue to spread across the country.

The three victories proved that marijuana legalization can win support both in high turnout Presidential elections which favor Democrats and in low turnout mid-terms which favor Republicans. We have seen that marijuana legalization can succeed in blue states (Washington and Oregon), in presidential swing states (Colorado) and even red states (Alaska). It has won in both highly urban jurisdictions, like D.C., and highly rural places like Alaska. It succeeded on the East Coast, the West Coast, and in the middle of the country.

The victory in Oregon also proved there is no blowback against legalization. The people of Oregon got to closely watch legalization unfold right across their border and decided to vote for Measure 91 by an even larger margin than Initiative 502 was approved in Washington state.

If governors and state legislatures take their job as representatives of the people seriously, it is time they start listening to the will of the people on this issue. It is clear that in states like Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California, Delaware, etc… the voters want their government to end marijuana prohibition.

If local politicians continue to shirk their duties, these national organizations plan to move with marijuana legalization ballot initiatives in more states; but the initiative process is unfortunately a blunt tool and one not available in half the country. While any method that ends the arbitrary and racist policy of marijuana prohibition is dramatically better than letting the status quo continue, an initiative is not the ideal way of dealing with the complex task of writing laws governing a whole new industry because campaigns need to draft provisions that are easiest to explain and poll well instead of writing the best possible policies.

In states with the initiative process the question isn’t will marijuana become legal, but how and when. Local legislatures in these states have a simple choice: They can choose to defy the will of their constituents and watch marijuana become legal without their input, or they can listen to their voters and take part in a thoughtful process to write the best possible law for addressing the issue. This really shouldn’t be a tough call.

CommunityJust Say Now

Dear State Politicians, It Is Time You Embrace Marijuana Legalization

If governors and state legislatures take their job as representatives of the people seriously, it is time they start listening to the will of the people.

There shouldn’t be the need for another marijuana legalization ballot initiative in this country. Over the past two election cycles local organizations and national groups, like Marijuana Policy Project and Drug Policy Alliance, already have done everything necessary to make their case to governors and state legislatures around the country.

During the 2012 election they proved that polls showing majority support for marijuana legalization in this country were real. It isn’t just vapid support for a hypothetical idea that would quickly evaporate once the details start getting discussed, but an indication of a serious desire for concrete change. The big wins in Colorado and Washington state showed voters will enthusiastically support smart proposals to legalize, tax, and strictly regulate marijuana.

Over the last two years, the implementation in Colorado and Washington state proved marijuana legalization can be done and the sky won’t fall. The new laws succeeded in the goals of reducing minor marijuana arrests and creating new tax revenue for the state, while producing very few problems.

Finally, the election successes last week in Washington D.C., Oregon, and Alaska should have removed any doubt that marijuana legalization is going to to continue to spread across the country.

The three victories proved that marijuana legalization can win support both in high turnout Presidential elections which favor Democrats and in low turnout mid-terms which favor Republicans. We have seen that marijuana legalization can succeed in blue states (Washington and Oregon), in presidential swing states (Colorado) and even red states (Alaska). It has won in both highly urban jurisdictions, like D.C., and highly rural places like Alaska. It succeeded on the East Coast, the West Coast, and in the middle of the country.

The victory in Oregon also proved there is no blowback against legalization. The people of Oregon got to closely watch legalization unfold right across their border and decided to vote for Measure 91 by an even larger margin than Initiative 502 was approved in Washington state.

If governors and state legislatures take their job as representatives of the people seriously, it is time they start listening to the will of the people on this issue. It is clear that in states like Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California, Delaware, etc… the voters want their government to end marijuana prohibition.

If local politicians continue to shirk their duties, these national organizations plan to move with marijuana legalization ballot initiatives in more states; but the initiative process is unfortunately a blunt tool and one not available in half the country. While any method that ends the arbitrary and racist policy of marijuana prohibition is dramatically better than letting the status quo continue, an initiative is not the ideal way of dealing with the complex task of writing laws governing a whole new industry because campaigns need to draft provisions that are easiest to explain and poll well instead of writing the best possible policies.

In states with the initiative process the question isn’t will marijuana become legal, but how and when. Local legislatures in these states have a simple choice: They can choose to defy the will of their constituents and watch marijuana become legal without their input, or they can listen to their voters and take part in a thoughtful process to write the best possible law for addressing the issue. This really shouldn’t be a tough call. (more…)

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at http://pendinghorizon.com