Guest Blog: Can You Smell It? Marijuana Legalization Coming in 2012

Guest Blog by Joshua Schimberg, Executive Director of Texas NORML

2012 Election is the Most Important in Marijuana Law Reform History

This year could likely be the most significant in marijuana law reform history. In case you hadn’t heard, three states, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, will be voting on some form of marijuana legalization on November 6th, and two states, Arkansas and Massachusetts, will be voting on medical marijuana.

Perhaps even more significant than all of these proposals, are the recent nationwide polling numbers regarding marijuana legalization. In October, 2011, for the first time ever, Gallup reported a plurality of Americans, 50%, were in favor of legalizing marijuana, with 46% opposed. Then, in March, 2012, Rasmussen also reported a plurality of Americans in favor of “legalizing and taxing” marijuana (47% favored, 42% opposed) in order to “help the nations financial problems.” However, the biggest news came just a few months later when Rasmussen, again, asked the question, but with a slightly different slant. In May, Rasmussen asked Americans if they were favored legalizing and regulating marijuana “in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco,” and the answer was overwhelmingly yes, with 56% in favor and just 36% opposed. Considering the polling trend over the past decade, this most recent poll seems to suggest that we are nearing a point where Americans support marijuana legalization at a two to one margin. This is huge news, but it doesn’t necessarily mean an easy or quick victory.

The last time any state voted on marijuana legalization was in 2010, when California’s Prop. 19 was voted down in what many people viewed as an upset. That defeat, despite widespread support of marijuana legalization in California, demonstrated the complicated nature of voter ballot initiatives, and also highlighted fault lines in the activist community. Marijuana law reform activists and supporters are not a monolithic group. More than fifteen years of legal medical marijuana in California, brought about by the passage of Prop. 215 in 1996, have changed the activist landscape there and, more broadly, the west coast. Subgroups and alternate factions of activists, with different goals and agendas, have popped up not just in California, but in many states which have seen years of legal medical marijuana access.

Differences between activist groups were highlighted prior to California’s vote on Prop. 19. Some medical marijuana activists feared it would harm their access, and some legalization activists feared it didn’t go far enough, or still included too many restrictions. The problem with that logic is medical marijuana has been increasingly under attack, and even in California, according to the California Criminal Justice Statistics Center, misdemeanor arrests for marijuana have sharply increased over the past 20 years to record levels of nearly 55,000 per year, comprising 22% of all drug arrests. Marijuana possession arrests in California have increased more than 100% since 1990. Nationwide in that same time, marijuana arrests have increased more than 250%, going from 326,850 to more than 850,000, and nearly 90% of those arrests are for possession. What conclusion should activists take from this?

Despite the success of medical marijuana laws, there is much more work to be done in order to end the massive number of marijuana arrests nationwide. And if history is any indicator of how to accomplish that, states like California will have to take the lead as they did with medical marijuana. Since California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, 16 other states, and Washington D.C., have followed suit. Even with more than one third of our country having passed some form of medical marijuana, our Federal government has not yet moved on the issue.

Enactment of marijuana prohibition didn’t happen overnight; neither will its end.

Consider that the first state to pass a law against marijuana was Massachusetts in 1911, 26 years before Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act. During the 26 years between Massachusetts’ law and the Tax Act, nearly 20 other states passed anti-marijuana laws. Solidification of marijuana prohibition came more than thirty years after the Tax Act, when it was listed as a Schedule I Controlled Substance under 1970’s Controlled Substances Act, after which marijuana arrests began to balloon. The lesson here is that changing established public policy is not something that can be accomplished uniformly, quickly, or easily. But, nationwide policy is more likely to change as more states join in, and this November could very well bring about the first state to vote for legal marijuana. If so, it will likely be the first in a long line of states to do so before the Federal government.

For that reason it is imperative for marijuana law reform activists in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, to put everything into passing their respective legalization initiatives.
The sooner we can get the first “domino” to fall, the quicker more broad changes will happen. Activists fighting against activists are delaying progress, and they should keep in mind that public opinion plays a vital role in voter initiatives. If 56% support legalizing and regulating marijuana “in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco,” it’s highly likely the number will significantly drop without sensible regulations. Even many in the legalization community agree with some sensible regulations, especially if that expedites an end to hundreds of thousands of marijuana arrests every year.

Ending those arrests is the goal of organizations like NORML, and that is why we support any and all steps in that direction. Whether it’s a decriminalization bill, an affirmative defense medical bill, (both of which NORML has supported in Texas for years) or if it’s a legalization bill (with regulations) in Colorado, Oregon, or Washington, NORML supports any and all chances at protecting responsible, adult marijuana consumers from arrest and imprisonment.

Election Day 2012 is November 6th, so keep an eye on Colorado, Oregon, and Washington to see who will be first to legalize. Keep an eye on Arkansas and Massachusetts to see who will be the next medical marijuana state.

This is the biggest Election Day in the history of marijuana law reform.

For more information on marijuana law reform around the country, visit:

34 thoughts

  1. Its about fucking time.

    Several aspects are worth pondering:
    1) neither presidential candidate has expressed any positivity towards it-
    -and, while Romney is classically against it
    he has not seemed to have sold out the people by partaking and yet laughing while they get caught within the gears of our botched and corrupted legal system
    -meanwhile, Obama has expressed that he ‘inhaled’ as that was ‘the point’ and yet watched an enormous amount of American tax-payer lives be ruined as the country maintaining its course
    -Obama even declared that he would not impede states pursuing their own directives- more lies.
    2) we all know there are no good reasons for its illegality, and especially compared to alcohol (dangerous to self and society), cigarettes (dangerous and maximally addictive), and the myriad of benefits and first-hand observations of countless Americans- yet, if to become legal, its wake would leave many questions (drug war funds, law enforcement tasks [justification of man-hours], not to mention the sheer volume of imprisoned/jailed and on-docket victims of this war on civil rights
    — so I ask: how can we provide the answers to their background fears and issues which will be seen upon its eventual legalization?
    3) if even one state were to fully legalize it – what would have to occur, even given the polls showing more for its legalization than against – what would it take to get our government to NATIONALLY recognize that it should then be legal? I have monitored key aspects of politics for years, and am not aware of the process it would take to overturn such a huge amount of historical and legal legacy such as we have – NORML and team,
    what would it then take?

    Support NORML, and communicate.
    Do not post superfluous pro-legalization statements which cause undecided readers to go ‘their is pothead’. The ‘Cheech and Chong’ and ‘Harold and Kumar’ stereotypes, while sometimes accurate, are rarely the case-
    and we need to become viewed as intelligent contributors to society.

    Those of you reading this, who are stars, in the media, and respected, PLEASE SPEAK UP.

    We are the majority, hidden in stigmatic and legal clutter – BUT NOW IS THE TIME TO BE KNOWN.


  2. I can’t wait. I am so excited for this day to come. I do not even live in Washington, Colorado, or Oregon. I will stay up all night to hear about the results. If you live in one of those states please vote yes. Doing so will help give a big win for our personal rights. The purpose of our government is to protect this country’s rights and not restrict them.

  3. “NORML supports any and all chances at protecting responsible, adult marijuana consumers from arrest and imprisonment.”

    Thank you, NORML.

  4. I can smell it but the MARIJUANA PROBITIONISTS can’t. The 21ST CENTURTY INQUISITORS backed by FEDERALISM will have their fire lit if any of the three states voting for legalization pass the line and put a hole in the WALL OF MARIJUANA PROHIBITION. A brick here and a brick there will help the wall come tumblin down and the BARBARIANS AT THE GATE will be waiting for the freedom of the NEW MOTHER NATURE voted by the people and for the people. A new wall of SMOKE AND MIRRORS will created by the FED MENTALITY of the ORWELLIAN STATE. It’s time to put on the DARK SUNGLASSES and see the the real reality of FEDERALISM. HAIL TO THE MONARCHY!

  5. Ben Mr. Obama was asked when Uruguay decided to legalize Marijuana and make it a state business, if the U.S. would follow suit. Mr. Obama’s reply was “Not on my watch, It will never happen”. So there is no difference between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney. Except Mr Obama has admitted that he had used it in both, High School, and college. He therefore should know what the effects are and that it is not addictive nor harmful in any way.
    therefore why does he leave it on the schedule one list. He should know that it is not as bad as Heroin, or the other drugs that is on schedule two list. My own personal thoughts is that the reason is that he is under the influence of big business, IE. DEA, Big pharma., alcohol, tobacco. Justice system, IE.Private Prisons systems, police, courts, and the list goes on.
    I personally do not want an owned man, to run My government. I also do not want a man running my government that will not give me, my god Given right, to do with my own body, what I want to do with it, as long as it does not effects some one else.
    Therefor The only solution I can see is to vote the Libertarian Party ticket. My vote for president, in 2012, will be for Gary Johnson. It may be a wasted vote but at least I will be voting my conscience. I do not want to vote for the lessor of two evils, because it is still voting for what I call evil.

  6. Ben,
    You’re right that more media celebs have to speak out. I do know that Lawrence O’Donnell spoke out on the subject profoundly on MSNBC last year. And more than a few Hollywood stars and recording artists have spoken out.

    Even some conservative pundits seem to understand that the “war on drugs” has failed.

    Hey, but the tide is turning–has turned!

    Come on, Colorado, Washington & Oregon brothers and sisters–lead the way!

  7. The only thing I can say is – I sure hope so! It is long overdue and the old policies – that were implemented on outdated beliefs and bad information – need to go.

    Legalize 2012

  8. This site probably gets very little reading by anyone who is not pro legalisation. That said I would like to add one point: Please could we get away from the idea of smoking. Cannabis does not need to be smoked – it can be taken as a tablet, food or drink. This gives it much more credibility as a medicine and removes it from the negative connotations of tobacco use when used recreationally.
    I live in Europe where cannabis is usually mixed with tobacco when smoked so no one will even consider it as a medicine because of this. I realise that many of the supporters of legalisation are so called ‘stoners’ but if they want it legalized then dropping the emphasis on smoking will help. Once it is legal in one form or another then I suppose people can do what they like with it. ‘Smoke the Vote’ is a very unfortunate campaign name.

    All that said NORML and it’s supporters do a great job – keep it up ! I can’t wait for November !

  9. The propaganda spread over the years is appalling. Prohibition whether it has been for the benefit of the forest industry, a means to arrest / control the Mexican immigrants who liked to smoke at the end of a hard days labor, get the hippies off the White House lawn, eliminate a natural medicine that cannot be patented, keep our population from being passive, or maybe even population control(think cancer benefits), or whatever vain attempt to sequester a plant that humans have cultivated for thousands of years has failed.

    We as humans are dependent on plants for our survival, plants depend on us for their survival. We are in this together. The cannabis plant did not become known world wide without humans caring for it and propagating it. Cannabis is very much a part of our existence and is never going away.

    The apple was propagated all around the world, but began its existence in a single forest. Cannabis is no different, it is here because the majority of the population wants it.

    If cannabis caused the maladies the uninformed opposition believes it does would it be popular with the majority? NO. How many people are proud crack smokers,heroin users or alcoholics?

    There numerous proven health benefits.

    FACT: The human body comes equipped with cannabinoid receptors that are made to receive the exact chemical combination key cannabis provides ! WOW, think about that. We are geared to receive the benefits of this plant. These receptors are located in many parts of the body, coincidence? Hardly.

    FACT: Cannabis has never killed anyone. Take too much asprin… death. Too much alcohol… death… too much of just about any other legal drug will kill you.

    You would have to smoke so much cannabis at one time to gain a lethal dose it is not comprehensible. You would most likely die of Asphyxiation… lack of oxygen!

    Open your eyes, ignore the ignorance and get educated. Every day people consume or are exposed many, many chemicals that are much more harmful than this beautiful medicinal plant that has never harmed anyone in it’s thousands of years of existence with humans.

    This is a wonderful plant we still know little about, but what we are learning is really amazing. Cultivators relate a deep connection to their plants that is very primal and with good reason. I believe we have evolved to consume this plant and our ancestors seem to confirm this with 1000’s of years of usage.

    Vote to secure our rights to consume a plant that harms no one by its use. Harm is only caused by laws enacted by the uneducated.

    Vote with knowledge, not ignorance!

  10. @ Ben also look at the revenues and the saving expedentures from law enforcement so they can really do some real police work,
    it is a win win win! Please vote 2 support legalization!

  11. When proposition 19 failed in 2010 , does anyone know what the percentage breakdown was? I remember I was in Southern California on a college campus and everyone was talking about it, and during the Summertime of 2010, the polls were saying 60% were in favor! Yes , 60 % and when November rolled around they lose by a landslide. Can anyone confirm the hard numbers? I just hope this time, there is no unexpected downfall again that’s all. ~Cheers.

  12. Nothing’s going to charge as ,long as the Politicians keep getting their pockets stuff full of loot from the Pharmaceutical Corporations & Liquor industries . Legalization you say ? Not if the Fed’s have their way & they will .

  13. Legalization in 2012? Eh, I don’t think so. People are coming around, but not quite that fast.

    On the other hand, as of 3 years ago I claimed that I believed that within 10 years marijuana would be legal. With the progress in social attitudes and with the growing list of medical MJ states, I still strongly believe that may be possible so long as things keep moving along the way they are.

    Stuff like this is unpredictable though. There’s always a chance we might end up hitting a wall. On the other hand, there’s a chance that suddenly there will be an explosion of support.

    As a matter of fact, lots of people around here cry about obama, but if anyone here truly believes any other viable candidate (note: one that actually stood a chance of winning) would have done anything differently, they’re wrong. He isn’t the monarch of the U.S., and any politician that rocks the boat usually gets thrown off. If you don’t play politics, you stand no chance of making it in politics. It’s that simple.

    That’s why I believe that his second term might hold the key. He’s a smart man, and with the kind of background he has I know for a fact that he realizes that the war on drugs is a disgusting joke. Also, during his second term he doesn’t need to worry about things like re-election or appeasing certain big players behind the scenes to make sure that he remains in office. I’m not saying he’ll just come on out and declare that he supports ending the war on drugs, but hopefully that will mean that he’s at least more free to do what he knows is right as opposed to what he knows will benefit him politically.

  14. Very good conclusion about supporting cannabis legalization and accepting regulations like tobacco and alcohol. I think there also needs to be an advocacy within Normal of giving up the smoking of cannabis. Smoking is being banned in more states each year. While the evidence that smoking cannabis is not as unhealthy as smoking tobacco, it’s important to get the word out that use of cannabis which has a controlled CBD to THC ratio, without smoking, is healthy physically and psychologically.

  15. This war on drugs is a fukin joke it will not stop, a plant grows free the fruit is free , DEA makes money for new guns, cars, and putting it in there greasy piggy pockets. Not giving a flying fuk how many lives are destroyed. They are the very definition of evil. Personally I’m taking a stand growing well aware of the risk I’m in Lousiana where it’s Kool to get drunk but smoke a Lil pot they want to rape you in everyway shape and form. Fuck em we the people choose cannabis for whatever recreation, medical, economically , that’s our choice so your not free Anyway if you have to dip duck and dodge just because you want to toke on a herb,

  16. While legalization is the Holy Grail we all seek, on October 16, 2012, marijuana’s classification as a Schedule 1 controlled substance goes before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Should Truth and Justice prevail, the Court will order the (immediate) rescheduling of marijuana to Schedule 2 or (even better) Schedule 3 of the Controlled Substances Act. While either of these moves would be an improvement on the travesty of marijuana’s current status, I have to wonder how this potential rescheduling would affect the federal government’s ongoing war on marijuana. Comments, please. . .

  17. Love the headline of this article. Please don’t ever vote for TeaPublicans if you want to see an end to the evils of prohibition.

  18. LEGALIZE FREEDOM. They say that this country is the land of the free and home of the brave. Yea fucking right. if it was free than we would be able to sit and smoke weed whenever we want without having to worry about getting in trouble. Its the land of the selfishness government and the home of yhe screwed(the tax payers).

  19. Let them who partake in the bud of the cannabis know the ever lasting kind & peaceful presence The spirit of trenches that mends broken fences

  20. pretty impressive stuff! wish they would leagalise & tax it here in UK… Soon sort out any economy troubles ha ha

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