Voters In Colorado and Washington Make History: Vote To Repeal Cannabis Prohibition

Voters in Colorado and Washington on Election Day in favor of ballot measures that remove criminal and civil penalties for the adult possession of cannabis. The votes mark the first time ever that voters have decided at the ballot box to abolish cannabis prohibition.

In Colorado, 55 percent of voters decided in favor of Amendment 64, which allows for the legal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and/or the cultivation of up to six cannabis plants by those persons age 21 and over. Longer-term, the measure seeks to establish regulations governing the commercial production and distribution of marijuana by licensed retailers. Initial returns show the measure passing with 54 percent support.

In Washington, approximately 55 percent of voters decided in favor of I-502, which regulates the production and sale of limited amounts of marijuana for adults. The measure also removes criminal penalties specific to the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use. Initial returns indicate that 55 percent of voters backed the measure.

State lawmakers in Colorado initially prohibited the possession of cannabis in 1917. Washington lawmakers initially outlawed the plant in 1923.

Commenting on the historic votes, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “Amendment 64 and Initiative 502 provide adult cannabis consumers with unprecedented legal protections. Until now, no state law has defined cannabis as a legal commodity. Some state laws do provide for a legal exception that allows for certain qualified patients to possess specific amounts of cannabis as needed. But, until today, no state in modern history has classified cannabis itself as a legal product that may be lawfully possessed and consumed by adults.”

Armentano continued: “The passage of these measures strikes significant blow to federal cannabis prohibition. Like alcohol prohibition before it, marijuana prohibition is a failed federal policy that delegates the burden of enforcement to the state and local police. Alcohol prohibition fell when a sufficient number of states enacted legislation repealing the state’s alcohol prohibition laws. With state police and prosecutors no longer engaging in the federal government’s bidding to enforce an unpopular law, the federal government had little choice but to abandon the policy altogether. Today, history begins to repeat itself.”

Separate marijuana law reform measures proved to be equally popular among voters. In Massachusetts, 63 percent of voters approved Question 3, which eliminates statewide criminal and civil penalties related to the possession and use of up to a 60-day supply of cannabis by qualified patients. It also requires the state to create and regulate up to 35 facilities to produce and dispense cannabis to approved patients. Massachusetts is the 18th state since 1996 to authorize the physician-recommended use of cannabis.

In Michigan, an estimated 65 percent of Detroit voters approved Measure M, which removes criminal penalties pertaining to the possession on private property of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults over age 21.

A statewide ballot measure to legalize the therapeutic use of cannabis in Arkansas appears to have narrowly failed by a vote of 49 percent to 51 percent. In Montana, a referendum that sought to ease legislative restrictions on the state’s medical marijuana law also failed. Oregon’s Measure 80, which sought to allow for the state-licensed production and retail sale of cannabis to adults, garnered only 45 percent of the popular vote.

The ballot measures in Colorado and Washington will take effect once the vote totals have been formally ratified, a process that typically takes up to 30 days.

NORML will provide additional updates on various other local measures throughout the day. Stay tuned to the NORML blog for more information.

112 thoughts

  1. This is the greatest thing I have ever heard i live in upstate NY wish they would do it here but I don’t think they ever will but like the article said it will make other state’s think about it and how much it cost’s them to arrest 750,000 people in NYC for small amouts of pot and put them in jail fantastic

  2. Regarding the CO law and the 6 plant limit – My last 1 plant grow of White Widow lasted my smoking habit for over a year so no worries here.


  3. im very happy about I 502 being passed, but

    how come you’re not allowed to grow weed in your own home?

    dont get me wrong im happy to have any legalization get passed, but why wasn’t the law written to allow personal home cultivation?

    one more question.
    why is 1 ounce the magic that lawmakers decide citizens can posess?

    just curious because every law written or proposed only wants to allow people to posess an ounce.

  4. Thank you voters in Colorado and Washington for getting rid of an archaic law for a substance that has never harmed a living soul. I hope this will be a wake up call for voters in other states to rise up for what is right!

  5. So proud of my state!! here is washington we also passed gay marriage Tuesday. haha no one ever talks about wash state until they legalize pot. will keep checking on the NORMAL website for updates. Dec 6 is the date we can legally posess all that we now keep tucked in our freezers.

  6. @gothcgrrl420. I’m not sure why an ounce is the magic number – I think there are some current laws out there that have 1 ounce as the misdemeanor/felony line, and it may be modeled off of that. Since the “ounce” is a common term, it could also have some psychological connections that the propaganda folks said was a good middle ground term to use – and the appearance of an ounce is pretty unintimidating, where say a pound looks like a huge amount.
    Based on the way the ad campaigns were run here, I speculate that the home grow rules stem from a few things. One is to make it similar to liquor law where you can make your own beer and wine, but when you get to spirits, you need a special license which can be difficult for the average bathtub moonshiner to obtain.
    New Approach also had a very smart ad campaign where they appealed to the current economic situation, and the focus on the deficit and overall government spending has been very prominently featured in the media. And we’ve got a really high violet crime rate this year, and the more money for law enforcement really hit home.
    The last major point that I speculate had a lot to do with no home growing is the concern about kids. New Approach really pushed an ad campaign about putting regulations in place to make it more difficult for kids to get weed.
    I think these three points definitely won votes from the non-user demographic, because it was a logical social and economic argument vs. the old “it’s the same as alcohol” argument.
    I know there has been a lot of controversy over the DUI definitions in the law, and where I understand where they are coming from, as a responsible marijuana user, I’m as opposed to people driving under the influence of ANY judgment altering substance. Speaking of which – traffic has been slower for the last two days and I like to drive fast… get out of the left lane my fellow stoners!!

  7. my question now is, what happens to employers who wish to continue to drug test???? they still have the right to know the people who work for them are not under the influence of anything that may cause an unsafe situation…this is very important seeing that their is presently no test to tell if one is high or just has herb in their system from a couple days ago…..

  8. Lockedout- I suspect they still will test and deny/approve employees just as they’ve always done. Employers can do it with legal products too. For example, Geisinger medical group (which runs hospitals and clinics) won’t hire anyone who smokes cigarettes and if you test positive for nicotine they can fire you. Until it’s legal across the board I don’t think we’re going to see a great amount of change in employers drug testing policies.

  9. @lockedoutoftheshed:

    What you say may be true for urine tests, but not for saliva tests. Those remain THC-positive for a few hours to up to 24 hours, depending on the cutoff used. There are also field sobriety tests designed to measure actual impairment. Thus, urine tests (which do NOT prove current impairment) are really unnecessary for workplace safety.

  10. @washington gal thanks for trying to clarify the 1ounce rule. i dont agree with it, but baby steps i guess. down the road hopefully WA and CO voters can modify their laws and do away with posession limits.

    if theres no limits for how much alcohol a person can have, why should there be a 1 ounce limit with canabis?

    is owning more than 1 ounce of marijuana really a danger to society?

    lol i think not. 1 ounce of weed is not a lot if you like to cook it into food. my prefered method of getting high btw.
    i hope to be in washington state next year. hopefully someone will be cool enough to sell me some good bud.thank u for any response.

  11. By having a 1oz / 6 plant limit the law ensures that the federal government is powerless to stop you because their process deals with severe crimes and excessive amounts. Makes federal law moot, in a way, the limit the feds can’t come get u in other words.

  12. Sorry to yell here, but…
    I have been praying to the Savior that this day would come, and now it has – God is good, all the time. This makes me think of when Moses set the Hebrews free. CO and WA are our Moses. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see toads raining down on DEA headquarters, and everyone in the drug czar’s office come down with painful boils. Even if all that DID happen, they still would not let our people go.

  13. I was thinking about the taxes they’re going to establish on it. I was thinking, if they even decided to make it a 100% tax free item (yeah, right), they would still be getting tons of cash not having to spend over 10 billion a year putting us in prison. And the thing where they’re worried about no one buying it due to everyone growing v- so klet every single one of them grow it. It’s called sales tax, people. To grow, you need lights, soils, nutes, and a whole slew of little things. The gardening industry and retail outlets would BOOM if everyone grew it.

  14. I agree, gothicgrrl420! What’s the harm in having a pound on hand to create infusions and such that are safer for our bodies! But yes, definately baby steps. I read some of the Jan 2011 DEA position on marijuana propoganda report this evening… and wow. There was a section where some CA residents were quoted complaining about homeless people looking for/getting work and eating the food provided for the homeless during harvest times. I like to imagine that this report was put out to subliminaly fuel support for MJ so the people and the states can more easily “win” federal support without as much of a monetary investment.

  15. Folks, the law for Colorado basically says you can have a fair amount of marijuana, just no one can know about it; like keep it in a safe. You can have up to one ounce on your person, like well you go to buy it. But I don’t think you are required to use up everything you already purchased previously before you can go buy another oz.

    This law is set up so marijuana produced in Colorado stays in Colorado for the most part. This help in two ways, Mexican weed will see its market shares decrease and down near to nothing within Colorado once production of local marijuana is up to speed. Also, Since people can only produce a set amount, there will only be so much marijuana to go around, thereby limiting the export of Coloradian marijuana to surrounding states.

    This is will be an on going process; as the market switches over from illegal pot to legally produced local marijuana; as regulated by the prices.

  16. @Lawrence – FYI in NYC a small amount of pot (under an oz I believe) is just a ticket and 1/2 the time you don’t even get that if the officer isn’t a prick.

  17. Be damned…never thought I would live long enough to see the day. Paul Armentano I should remember you in my will. No one has worked harder to right this gross American injustice then you have.

    [Paul Armentano responds: Thank you for the compliment and the acknowledgement, though there are many, many others that have worked just as hard.]

  18. Glad for all who will actually be able to LEGALLY smoke! Just hope that the “Bible Belt” will eventually fall like 18-dominos…

    Would simply enjoy be able to smoke again. Sure thought the 70’s were going to OK smoking.

    Hurting from too much Federal Service…could use medicinal or just plain old “legal” smoke!

    Just shows that even though I served my country – many time over – that I would dearly enjoy something that would help w/my pain and not ruin my organs.

  19. Quit calling it pot! That sounds illicit and makes it sound bad to all those do-gooders. Say or call it weed which is what it is. Weed sounds natural and green which is also what it is. Pot sounds to do-gooders like it’s some kind of concoction that’s cooked up by witches or something. Get smart.

  20. WA I-502 was ingeniously written to prevent the Feds from stopping it. The only thing that is going to go into effect on Dec 6 is the legalization of 1oz of cannabis for personal use (plus the DUI provision). The Feds cannot force any State to enforce Federal law and the DEA isn’t going to go into Seattle and start busting people. Very little will change in Seattle because people haven’t been charged with cannabis possession for a couple years, and very few in the last 9 years. The rest of the state will see a big change. The distribution system won’t even be formalized for another year, so the Feds can’t sue to stop a system that hasn’t even been created yet. It was ingeniously written in such a way to prevent Federal interference.

  21. We should all do something to reward Colorado for what they did. Plan a trip, buy a lot, build a house, buy a plot. What if we all did that; do you think they would notice; maybe even like it? Me I’m going to open a rest home for all of the burnt-out stoners. We are going to need a place to crash someday…..

  22. If it was up to me I wouldn’t legalize ALL drugs for rec. use. Just 3, the 3 natural ones: Cannabis, Psilcybin muSHROOMS and Peyote Mescaline. They are great drugs that grow naturally in plant/fungus state. All other drugs would be legal for SCIENTIFIC USE. That’s what I would do. But weed only would make the USA perfect alone.

  23. I think this is a great step forward for legalization but here in Missouri I don’t think it will make a bit of differance, living here I realize why cannabis was made illegal in the first place. All through growing up I never used it, I associated it with trashy people as did everyone else because the only people you see who use it around here is trash and I didn’t want to become that. But now I realize I didn’t we cannabis making trashy people, it was just trashy people who use it and gave it a bad name. God gave us intelegence and god gave is weed. All good things must be used in moderation. Smoke responsibly Colorado, show the world it’s not garbage!

  24. will Colorado’s new laws allow out of state people to drive into Colorado and visit a grocery store and purchase a gram or two.. or do you still have to be a Co resident

  25. Even though it’s easy to grow, most people will not be interested in doing it themselves, sot here’ll still be a huge taxable industry there. The limits on plant numbers and once possession limits are twofold to keep the feds out and also to prevent massive zoning issues as hundreds try to turn their residences into industrial pot farms when the law goes live.

  26. I also echo that I thought I would never see this day even as a young adult and am very happy about it not because it impacts me but on principle alone. I know people whose lives have been ruined by these laws. Not just a few, a DOZEN. Half of them graduated high school with me. I don’t smoke, but I have tried it, and it’s really obvious weed is basically benign. Sorry for double post!

  27. I am proud to have donated money to Norml! Everyone keep up the hard work and keep fighting! Lets make 2013 an even more historic year for the legalization movement! Stay positive and keep pushing forward! Love you guys!

  28. Well it’s about time. call it what it is,,, Cannabis. Marijuana was made up to persecute Mexican American workers back in the 1930’s. Maybe the DEA’ers could retrain as health workers…. Cannabis is NOT a criminal issue. Utter insanity by Harry Anslinger made it criminal.

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