Alaska, Oregon, and D.C. Approved Pot Legalization. Are We In the Final Days of Marijuana Prohibition?


With voters approving marijuana legalization in Alaska, Oregon, and D.C. this week, is the end of pot prohibition nigh? A variety of folks from the legalization movement were feeling mighty optimistic about it as far back as 2012. Check out the above video, featuring travel author and TV host Rick Steves, among others, touting a bright future for marijuana in America.

The story was originally published on Oct 18, 2012. The original text is below:

"There' a rising tide of acceptance of the fact that people are going to smoke marijuana, and it's like the prohibition against alcohol in the 1930s. There's a recognition that perhaps the laws are causing more harm than the drugs themselves," says Rick Steves, author and travel host.

Steves and others attended "The Final Days of Prohibition" conference in downtown Los Angeles in early October. The conference was put on by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), and Reason TV was on the scene to ask about the future of marijuana laws in the U.S., particularly in the upcoming election where the states of Oregon, Washington, and Colorado all have marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot.

About 3 minutes.

Produced by Paul Feine and Zach Weissmueller. Edited by Weissmueller.

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  1. There is still a big social stigma against it, and an irrational fear of it by Soccer Mom types all over suburbia.

    When the NFL stops trying to appease Soccer Moms by testing players for it (even while they sell tons of beer and beer advertising), we’ll know that the drug war is ending.

    Outside of places like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, the biggest obstacle to positive change still isn’t politicians going against what the people want; the biggest obstacle is still in voters’ heads.

    1. Law enforcement is a huge obstacle as well. Lot’s of money and toys coming from Washington in the name of the WOD. Although I suppose the unending WOT can be used to continue rationalizin the police state. There is also the power. Asset forfeiture. Basically the smell or even suspected pot activity is an easy excuse for 4th amendment violations.

      1. Pot brings people who are by all other accounts law abiding citizens into the system of government abuse.

      2. Yeah, we have to convince people that’s a big waste of money.

        I still think that’s a powerful argument–and was for people in Washington, Colorado, and Oregon.

        “Why are we wasting money on this?”, was probably a much more appealing argument to average taxpayers than “Let’s respect the freedom of the stoners”.

        …although, granted, taxpayers in Washington, Colorado, and Oregon are a lot less likely to be afraid of stoners.

        1. There may be a race component to voters’ conceptions, too. When suburban voters in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado picture the average stoner, I bet they see a white guy in his 30s. When suburban voters in New York and Philadelphia imagine the average cannabis user, they probably don’t imagine the guys in their fantasy football league.

          From a racist perspective, the Drug War really does do a good job of keeping as many black people in the criminal justice system as possible–without doing much damage to suburban white people. We tend to see that as a great reason to get rid of the Drug War, but I think a lot of people have the opposite reaction.

          That might have something to do with why NFL football fans still jump on players when they get caught, too. Entrepreneurs are much more sensitive to their customers desires than the government is, and if your average suburbanite didn’t want to see black people persecuted for smokin’ ganja anymore, I’d bet the NFL would be leading the charge to get rid of testing.

          If the NFL still thinks that busting its own players for cannabis use enhances the NFL’s image, then we’ve probably still got a ways to go with public opinion, and that struggle might not just be about cannabis. It might still be about race, too.

          Yeah, some anti-racists the progressives of New York and Philadelphia are, huh?

          1. Yeah, I think there an aspect of the WOD as a way to keep poor inner city people under their thumb. It creates a ready excuse to for basic civil rights to be completely ignored as in stop and frisk. Of course you have the meth “epidemic” in rural white America serving the same purpose.

            1. And isn’t it interesting that while there’s a pot legaliz’n movement, there’s no similar one for meth?

              1. Not really. Even from a legalize-it-all perspective, Meth is still fucking nasty.

                Many better poster children out there than Meth.

                1. “Meth is still fucking nasty”

                  Not necessarily. I snorted meth on numerous occasions when I was younger as an alternative to coke. I actually found the buzz and the come down a little cleaner. Alternatively, I’ve seen dudes with DT’s from alcohol withdrawal. Talk about nasty. regarding all drugs, I fail to see any upside to throwing users in prison.

              2. While I’m all for legalizing Meth, I don’t see it happening before a lot of other changes. What I would really like to see next is some public sense that the WOD, as applied to pecription painkillers, is barbarous if it prevents ONE cchronic pain sufferer from getting relief. You say that hundreds are scoring bogus prescriptions to get stoned? And I’m supposed to care, why exactly?

          2. There is an epic false-flag pro-pot campaign to be built out of the racist history and effects of the WOD.

            A sly wink and nod type campaign that pushes people to vote against legalization in order to keep the darkies in their place.

            It could be awesome, if done right.

          3. That’s true, and it’s why pro basketball isn’t like that. The demographics of basketball, 1st players, then audience, has changed a lot since 50-60 yrs. ago. If pro football had grown up the same way pro basketball did, the NFL (or whatever major leagues existed in its place or alongside it) would not be checking for marijuana. However, pro basketball, football, and wrestling developed distinct fan cultures.

        2. Colorado after legalization showed a 5% traffic death decline and about 10% drop in crime, about 50 lives saved.

          How can any moral person support pot laws that add 1000 traffic deaths yr across the country. Why doesn’t DEA say if it saves lives, we were wrong?

          For once, won’t somebody think of the children or at least tell soccer moms.

          Save lives, legalize cannabis.

      3. Good point. But, it strikes me that serious reform of the civil asset forfeiture laws would be a big win in countering this. Take away at least part of the law enforcement incentive for continuing the drug war. And it’s a measure conservatives could get behind, since it’s not those icky drugs.

    2. From what I have seen of the numbers soccer mom types are an issue as women do seem to be narrowly against it but the larger issue is people over 65 who oppose legalization in much larger numbers and are very consistent voters. As they die off legalization will become more of a certainty unless there are some very bad experiences that sour voters in general.

      To that end I think getting California on board would make it hard to reverse but in almost all things I expect California to get it wrong.

      1. “The larger issue is people over 65 who oppose legalization in much larger numbers and are very consistent voters.”

        I’m sure that’s true.

        They may be strongly represented among those who like seeing the Drug War disproportionately target black people, too.

        We tend to forget that not all those baby boomers were hippies, and a lot of them remember the days of segregation with nostalgia, joined in white flight, etc.

        1. I kind of suspect it isn’t so much the boomers but the 75+ crowd. I have never seen a more granular poll for people over 65 but I would bet if they broke it down to 75+ you would see something like 90-10 against. These are the people who watched refer madness and fear negro jazz musicians. Those people will be dying off rapidly. I suspect the racial angle is less prominent among the hippie crowd. These were the people involved in the civil rights movement when they were young.

      2. I graduated in 1968, and turn 65 in months. Few people now over 65 have tried pot, but after 1968 it’s use increased dramatically.

        Support in 65 crowd will be increasing significantly in next few years.
        L Just need stoners to outlast the boozers and smokers

    3. The problem is a lot more particular than that: It’s that hardly any voters will switch their vote to a candidate because of that candidate’s being pro-pot, but a noticeable number will switch their vote away from the candidate for that reason. That’s true whether the candidate is generally on the “left”, center, or “right”.

      1. Things change you know. The information supporting your assertions is out of date.

        One of the major reasons why Oregon’s initiative was approved by the voters is that the Yes on 91 people got 150,000 new voters registered. Measure 91 was approved by a margin of 142,070.
        Ellen Rosenblum defeats Dwight Holton for attorney general (2012 primary election)
        May 16, 2012

        A pungent whiff of weed enveloped the Rosenblum campaign in the race’s closing days. Marijuana legalization advocates threw their support to Rosenblum, contributing nearly $200,000 ? about a third of her total ? to her campaign in May.

  2. Last days? Unfortunately I don’t think so. It’s unconsciounable that we even consider putting people in prison for growing, selling, or smoking a plant but most people are too small minded to imagine an alternative. Hopefully, the next generation can be a little more compassionate and tolerant and less assholy. Probably be a mixed bag.

  3. “Are We In the Final Days of Marijuana Prohibition?”

    Undoubtedly yes.

    1. Is that you, Tulpa?

      Hi Tulpa!

  4. We’ll know that we’ve turned the corner when Kevin Sabet decides that desperate measures are called for in protesting the social and moral decay of legalization by self-immolating on the national mall. He’ll use a marihuana cigarette heighten the irony, but find that the tip doesn’t burn hot enough to ignite his gasoline-soaked body. Leaving him with a terrible choice to either give up and walk away after three or four people have stopped to watch him, or to try and make the tip of the marihuana cigarette hotter by inhaling on it, thus becoming hopelessly addicted.

    1. Well you have the most popular and probably worst argument for prohibition with this “we’re sending a message” to kids that we “condone” it if we don’t through people in prison for it. You want kids to not smoke pot. Have those same uptight assholes do a PSA on how totally rad smoking pot is and all the cool kids are doing it.

    2. Let’s hope that Patrick Kennedy is standing by him at the time he does this.

    3. after three or four people have stopped to watch piss on him

    4. We need to expose KS as a professional liar working for the holy trinity of Big Pharm-treatment-Jail.
      Get them addicted, treated and jailed

      Need to pressure media( Time, WashPost,) that give free space to these liars with no room for rebuttal or comments.

  5. OT

    A little long but worth it.

    Why Smart People Are Not Always Rational

    Intelligence is one factor, but it does not explain all of the variability. There are some tasks for which performance is not related to intelligence much at all.

    This is surprising to most, because we tend to think of the term “smart” somewhat simplistically. We expect people who are smart in one way to be smart in every way. But that’s not quite how intelligence works (again, please read my first post, which discusses the differences between IQ and rationality, and how each is measured).

    So what’s going on?

    Well, after many years of study, Stanovich and others have identified a number of factors which explain these differences, but I think the list can be collapsed into four general categories: intelligence, knowledge, need for cognition, and open-mindedness. Or, if you prefer my casual references, we can be irrational because we are stupid, ignorant, lazy, arrogant, or some combination of those.

    I wonder if any of this correlates with political leanings?

    1. Stop respecting psychology!

      1. Really?

        Just because it’s twisted to support social initiatives doesn’t mean exploring cognitive functions isn’t scientific.

    2. Smart people are also far better at rationalizing irrationality.

  6. Are We In the Final Days of Marijuana Prohibition?

    Days? No. But certainly we are in it’s last decade and possibly the last 5 years.

    People simply realize what an abysmal failure the drug war is and that it’s hurting more than helping. It gives me hope that the citizenry can recognize and learn from its failures in other areas.

    1. When I’m convinced that the progressives of New York City are okay with people drinking sugary soft drinks, then I’ll start to consider the possibility that they might let people smoke marijuana.

      1. They don’t see the two issues as the same. And pointing this out to them may make their heads explode.

        1. There’s also the question that the mighty, mighty jb brought up…where is the loyalty of the NYPD–aren’t they part of the Democratic Party machine?

          Are the Democrats that run New York City going to go against law enforcement and their public sector union?

          1. Washington, Oregon and DC aren’t Democrats?

            Historically, drug prohibition is a conservative issue. Historically, pig worship is a conservative thing.

            While Team Blue is certainly moving statist, I think you are still more likely to see Republicans standing in the way of legalization than Dems.

            1. See Clown Hunter’s comment down yonder.

              The Democratic Party may as well be thought of as an arm of the police unions in NYC, Philadelphia, Boston, ..

              No, I don’t think it’s like that (to the same extent) in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado. They don’t have machines like they do on the Eastern Seaboard, and the police unions may be just as likely to support Republicans as they do Democrats.

            2. What in the world are you talking about Francisco? The Progressive Party invented prohibition.

              In 1937 The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was approved by the arguably the most left wing Congress that our Country has ever been forced to endure. It was signed into law by FDR, very arguably the most left wing POTUS in our history.

          2. where is the loyalty of the NYPD–aren’t they part of the Democratic Party machine

            I think you have that backwards:

            Where is the loyalty of the Democratic Party — aren’t they the political arm of the unions and government agencies, including the NYPD?

        2. They would see the issues as the same if the same kinds of business were purveying pot as sodas. But because pot is sold by some little guy, while tobacco cigarets & sodas come from big businesses, they can take the latter as exploiting the helpless consumers.

          What would be interesting is if 40-50 years after legaliz’n, the progressives turn sour on the big businesses that will have grown up to supply cannabis.

          1. The Progressives have a stunnjng ability to see whatever enterprise they happen to benefit from as “the little guy”. You see Hollyweird bigshots carrying on about big corporations. As if Hollyweird were part of (as P.J. O’Rourke said) the arts and crafts movement.

        3. GOD, but I wish that were so. Instead, it makes them go all patronizing while explaining to me how the two things are totally different. And when I argue with the stupid fucks, they just about pat me on my haid. One day, I will end up on trial for eviscerating one or more of the smug bastards.


      2. Ken, this makes no sense historically.

        NYC will gladly legalize pot as long as government gets to ban something that is presently more popular. IOW, we will take one step forward towards more freedom only if we take two steps back toward tyranny.

        It probably won’t even be a pot vs. sugar (or tobacco) trade-off, it’ll be something worse like the 1930’s: you can drink but we’re confiscating your gold.

    2. I am not seeing 5 years at all for ending prohibition. Medical MJ in most states maybe. I think we’ll most definately see a lot more states doing something. I would be very happy if you were right though. I wonder with this as well as with gay marriage if as more and more states legalize it, will there be a race to not be the last state? Although wit some states that might be a point of pride.

  7. Are We In the Final Days of Marijuana Prohibition?

    Not yet. Cannabis is the biggest cash cow for the DEA and law enforcement love prohibition because it gives them the excuse to fuck with lots of people that are non-violent and who pose no threat to them. Cannabis users are the next best thing to puppies for the cops.

    But I will say, that 3 for 3 legalization win was a crushing blow for the prohibitionists. Still need more states to be able to say that the battle is going the way of liberty. Let’s see how the next round goes. Also, would like to see some truly red states get a ballot and have it pass.

  8. Not to harsh on people’s buzz….

    …but i continue to find all the celebratory back-patting about weed ‘legalization’ uninspiring when there are still thousands of people in jail for weed-related crimes that are getting zero reprieve from these developments.

    There’s something incredibly bourgeois about people’s perception of the whole issue… which seems to be that ‘soon we’ll all be living in a society where it will be de rigeur to order a Grande Bong-uccino @ Starbucks’.

    never mind the thousands of young people with existing criminal records due to possession or intent-to-sell charges. The people whose lives have been worst affected by our drug laws seem to have no seat at the table in these discussions.

    The whole ‘legalization’ perspective seems focused on the wonders of newfound ease with which middle class white people can now smoke pot *without having to interact with a minority criminal element*…

    … and while that’s nice and all, I’m not so sure that anyone has actually yet asked how these laws are supposed to benefit *those people* in any way.

    Don’t even get me started on the regulatory regime that will likely follow more widespread legalization and public use.

    1. “…but i continue to find all the celebratory back-patting about weed ‘legalization’ uninspiring when there are still thousands of people in jail for weed-related crimes that are getting zero reprieve from these developments.”

      Can I be honest? That’s silly. Freedom increases on one front, but not on another, and you’re a grump.

      I don’t think there’s any political viability for amnesty/release/whatever of prisoners without legalization. I can’t see the argument for releasing/pardoning a bunch of people when what they were in for is still illegal having much support.

      Maybe I’m wrong.

      1. “Can I be honest? That’s silly. Freedom increases on one front, but not on another, and you’re a grump.”

        Whatever ‘freedoms’ weed-consumers gain – and frankly i think they are minimal, given that most people have had plenty of access to cheap and widely-available weed most of their adult lives – is marginal at best relative to the suffering that the drug war has caused.

        I personally think that more attention should be paid to ameliorating the negative effects of the Drug War on the population is has hurt the worst.

        You call that ‘silly’? Whatever, fine.

        I personally think people acting as though ‘Government-approved pot-brownies’ is some huge social accomplishment is a little ‘silly’.

        I also think people will need to be vigilant to how states/fed use the ‘legalization’ of weed to excuse greater regulatory scrutiny over people’s lives. It is bound to happen. I don’t remember who that idiot was…. uh, ‘Smack McDougal’? the one half-decent point he made was that when the government ‘approves’ (legalizes) something, it isn’t any “more free” by definition. In fact, ‘illegality’ is ‘more free’ by virtue of it being outside legal controls. Look forward to THC tests becoming ubiquitous.

        1. when the government ‘approves’ (legalizes) something, it isn’t any “more free” by definition.

          Utter nonsense. You sound like a prog, “Freedom is slavery…”

          I’m obviously more free if they cannot throw me in a rape cage for mere possession. And you make it sound like legalization is the last step. It’s the first step and it’s a step towards liberty. Is it perfect, no, not yet, but Christ, quit being so fucking cynical.

          1. i’m not saying legalization isnt’ ‘better’.

            I’m pointing out that rather than this being the ‘end’ of prohibition, we’re still trying to deal with the realities of weed being criminal in most states. Thousands of people get incarcerated for weed in NYC alone every year.

            And that with the lifting of prohibition comes a regulatory regime. Which, as the history of alcohol shows, has a slew of its own problems.

            I’m simply pointing out that this issue has a lot of stuff associated with it that remains seriously problematic, and that ‘legalization’ by itself doesnt begin to address the fact that there are 10s of thousands of people in prison for marijuana related offenses.

            Call me crazy for caring more about ending the drug “war” part, and caring less about the ‘freedom’ to get baked.

            1. I think that you must never heard of the DEA or the 51 little DEAs who are spending well into 8 figures in the lost cause of eradicating cannabis.

              You’re not seeing the forest for the trees.

              1. This! The DEA quite often co-opts the aid of local LEOs by promising them a share of the loot. I remain convinced one tactic of the WOD is strategic targeting of drug enterprises based on the valuable assets they can see. If drug lord “Z” has a lot of visible bling, they go after him before drug lord “X”, who lives much more modestly…

      2. Don’t know about him, but I’m really pissed that it wasn’t legalized in the 1970’s. Yes, we have public support on our side, science and major victories, but expect the fight of cornered weasels in 2016 with big money in opposition.
        If we supporters focus on pot, not red-blue fights, then 2020 – 2024 is possible. If we screw it up, then 2050 would be optimistic.

    2. What, you think they pardoned the liquor gangsters after that prohib’n was repealed? There was no amnesty for them.

      1. Part of my career as a beverage-industry analyst involved having a detailed knowledge of how US alcohol-control laws evolved post-prohibition.

        It is exactly that knowledge that informs my view on how the ‘legalization of weed’
        (and the system that will evolve to regulate it and the people who use it) is a fairly minor detail in the context of the impact prohibition has had on people’s lives.

        Yes, i am aware that ‘pardon’ is unlikely. However, there is no reason some kind of retroactive sentencing reform isn’t possible. Or that there could at the very least be equal attention paid to the fact that people are still going to jail every day, and that a few ballot measures aren’t exactly ‘instant freedoms’ for all.

  9. Has any of the campaigning specifically mentioned the demise of the drug cartels? People often say goofy things about this, but I really wonder if those guys would keep prohibition alive in whatever way they can — maybe threatening Hispanic voters, or using illegal votes.

    1. Well, if I were a high ranking member of a drug cartel, I certainly would consider doing so. One means of ‘investing’ in my business that easily comes to mind is bribing politicians (ahem, campaign contributions) to maintain the status quo. Doing so would help to maintain my profit margins. Of course, these bribes would hve to be suitably ‘laundered’ before being paid…

      If Congresscritter “X”, after taking my money doesn’t continue to cooperate, it would be pretty simple to blackmail him/her with the damaging information they took my bribe money…

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