The march toward marijuana legalization is accelerating faster than many of the most optimistic drug reformers previously thought possible. Just 14 months after voters in California rejected a historic proposition to lift state prohibitions on recreational pot, the stuff is now for sale over the counter in Colorado and Washington, with the U.S. Department of Justice currently tolerating nearly all of the federally prohibited transactions.
At least 14 states are on pace to consider full legalization, either at the ballot box or in state legislatures, during this calendar year. Medical marijuana is also on the table in 17 states. Eight states are considering decriminalizing possession, replacing criminal penalties with civil fines.
Of the 18 states that do not have a pot push underway this year, nine have already OKed either medical marijuana or decriminalization. Meanwhile, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are preparing bills that would drastically reduce drug-related federal sentences, provide legal clarity to banks lending to marijuana-related businesses, and lift the prohibition on industrial hemp.
To give a snapshot of where marijuana freedom is heading for in the near term, reason presents a 50-state guide to weed legislation and ballot measures currently in the works. This list leans heavily on reportage from The Daily Chronic and a report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The War on Marijuana in Black and White.
A bill called HB 76, sponsored by Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham), would reduce the penalty for first-time possession of an ounce or less of pot to a civil fine that won't appear on criminal records. Additionally, Todd is sponsoring HB 104 with Rep. Allen Farley (R-Jefferson) and Rep. Mike Ball (R-Madison), a former state trooper. It would allow patients with serious neurological conditions, or their parents, to seek relaxed sentencing when prosecuted for possession. A similar bill (SB 174) reached the Senate floor in early February. "The parents that want to help their children are not criminals," police officer Dustin Chandler, whose daughter is the inspiration for the bills, told AL.com. "It's an issue of doing the right thing for the children of Alabama."
Arrests in 2010 for marijuana possession: 5,235
State election officials announced in January that an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana has reached the required number of signatures. There are still more signatures to be verified, but at this point it looks like a near certainty that the measure will qualify for the August ballot. "It's clear to everyone that prohibition is a failed policy," initiative co-sponsor Tim Hinterberger, a professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage's School of Medical Education, told The Washington Post.
Arrests in 2010 for marijuana possession: 2,028
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