States navigate paths to marijuana legalization

Updated
Several varieties of marijuana buds including "Skunk Ape" and "White Fire Alien" are displayed for sale at a medical marijuana center in Denver April 2, 2012.
Several varieties of marijuana buds including "Skunk Ape" and "White Fire Alien" are displayed for sale at a medical marijuana center in Denver April 2, 2012.
/Rick Wilking/Reuters

Voters of both the Evergreen State and the home to the Mile High City embraced a new era of public perception on drug legalization, as the hopes of Oregon voters wishing for the same went up in smoke.

Washington and Colorado etched a line in history books as the first states to pass ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Those states, along with Massachusetts and Montana, which both passed measures in support of medicinal marijuana, add to a new wave of progressive marijuana initiatives passed through voter initiatives.

The wave of legalization lurched to a stop in Oregon however, where contrary to stereotypes of the state’s progressive leanings - Oregon broke ground in 1973 in being the first state in the nation to decriminalize marijuana possession - Measure 80 was trounced in a commanding loss by 10 points with 55% opposition. Arkansas‘ measure to allow medical marijuana was also turned down by voters with 51% opposition.

Despite the wide margins of success for the ballot measures that did pass, local officials cautioned supporters of federal law enforcement’s willingness to share a peace pipe over a substance that remains illegal on the federal level.

“The voters were pretty clear on what they feel and what they want,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said. “Obviously if the federal government says it’s going to be illegal and they’re going to prosecute, we don’t have much of a voice here. We’re not going to succeed from the union.”

Colorado’s Attorney General John Suthers added his personal opposition to the measure, but pledged to follow through with the wishes of voters in his state.

“Despite my strongly held belief that the ‘legalization’ of marijuana on a state level is very bad public policy, voters can be assured that the Attorney General’s Office will move forward in assisting the pertinent executive branch agencies to implement this new provision in the Colorado Constitution,” Suthers said in a statement.

Hickenlooper added following the amendment’s passage: “Marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly.”

States navigate paths to marijuana legalization

Updated