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Marijuana on the Ballot

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November 7, 2012

Last night brought exciting signs that America is finally ready to choose sensible policies over draconian ones that deny sick people access to the medicine they need, and others that clog our criminal justice system with nonviolent marijuana users. ACLU affiliates across the country worked hard to support the passage of three important measures.

Voters in Colorado and Washington made history when they took a stand for sensible drug law reform, choosing to legalize small quantities of marijuana for adults.Arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana constitute one of the most common drug-related points of entry into the already bloated criminal justice system anddisproportionately target people of color despite the fact that white people use marijuana at higher rates.

From the ACLU of Washington:

The ACLU of Washington hails the passage of Initiative 502, which legalizes, taxes, and regulates small quantities of marijuana for adults age 21 and older. For the first time, the citizenry of two states have voted to legalize marijuana.

Said Kathleen Taylor, Executive Director of the ACLU of Washington: “Washington’s new law provides a safe and smart alternative to marijuana prohibition. It advances individual liberty and will eliminate unreasonable arrests, which have often targeted people of color. And the revenue it generates will help increase public health efforts to stem drug abuse. The ACLU looks forward to working with state and federal officials and New Approach Washington sponsors to ensure the law is fully and fairly implemented.”

And from the ACLU of Colorado:

Changing Colorado law to regulate marijuana like alcohol so that private, limited, regulated and taxed use and growing of marijuana for adults 21 and older is legal just makes good sense. It’s:

  • Fair: The current system and war on drugs – including marijuana – isn’t fair because it disproportionally impacts youth, lower income individuals and people of color;
  • Fiscally prudent: Colorado would come out $50 million ahead by saving the more than $25 million per year spent to arrest, prosecute and jail non-violent marijuana users; and
  • Protects kids: Taking marijuana out of the underground market and putting it behind regulated retail counters will make it harder for teens to access it.

The ACLU applauds this step forward in both Washington and Oregon, and will continue to work for the decriminalization of marijuana across the nation.

Meanwhile inMassachusetts, voters insisted that patients’ ability to access the most effective medicine should trump outdated political arguments and affirmatively chose to legalize the humanitarian use of medical marijuana.

From the ACLU of Massachusetts:

The ACLU is proud to have supported this measure to legalize the humanitarian use of medical marijuana. Thank you to everyone who voted yes!

This law will make patients safer and more secure, and will spare patients who are already seriously ill from having to deal with a black market to get a medication that helps them.The law also gives doctors the right to speak openly with their patients about this valuable treatment option.

Important regulatory work for safety and security begins next. The new law does not go into effect until 1/2/13, and there is a 120-day period for making new regulations on how to implement the law. We are dedicated to making this the best and safest law in the country.

Contemporary scientific evidence confirms the therapeutic effects of medical marijuana, which can provide unique relief to people suffering from serious conditions, including cancer and AIDS, when no other medicine is as effective or free of side effects such as nausea or loss of appetite. Patients in Massachusetts will now be able to join the nearly one million nationwide already using medical marijuana as recommended by their doctors and in accordance with state laws.

Here, too, the ACLU will continue the fight, working to increase the number of states that allow the use of medical marijuana, and calling on the federal government to end its intimidation of people for using and dispensaries for cultivating and dispensing medical marijuana in compliance with state laws.

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