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Why I’m Thankful for the Recent Marijuana Legalization Victories

Just Say Now bubbleThis Thanksgiving what I’m thankful for is the recent marijuana legalization victories in D.C., Oregon, and Alaska.

In the short term, it will product positive change in these jurisdictions that should reduce wasteful arrests. In the long term, the three wins are slowly but surely pushing politicians across the country to accept that the end of marijuana prohibition is inevitable because the public is hungry for change.

The criminalization of marijuana results in over 650,000 arrests across the country, costs taxpayers billions each year, funnels huge amounts of money to criminal organizations, and has been carried out in a profoundly racist manner. Fully legalizing marijuana would produce real and positive change.

As an activist I’m also thankful for the recent victories in marijuana reform because it shows what is possible. It should be an example for activists across the ideological spectrum.

Just ten years ago ending the criminalization of marijuana was considered an extremely fringe idea, but groups organized to steadily change public opinion with facts, reports, small scale actions, protests, and the occasional PR stunt. They proved that if you have a good idea and the data to back up your idea, you can eventually win over the public. It won’t be quick, it won’t be easy, but it can be done.

It also proves bottom up change can work. The movement has made dramatic progress in the last few years effectively without any support from top politicians or political leaders. There are still only one or two United States senators who quietly said they support legalization and effectively no governors who publicly endorse the idea.

Change has come about because organizations spent years working to produce a shift in public opinion then using the initiative process to bypass reluctant politicians. Change has come almost exclusively from the grassroots.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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