One week ago, voters in Washington State and Colorado voted by large margins to end the criminality of adults who use and possess a personal amount of marijuana. These historic votes have reverberated throughout the world and have changed the terms of the debate in the War on Drugs. Pot-smoking opponents of Washington’s I-502 and Colorado’s Amendment 64 could not see the far-reaching implications of marijuana legalization.
At the city level, the Seattle Police Department issued a post affirming that the mere smell of marijuana alone, detected by a K-9 officer or a human officer, is no longer “probable cause” to instigate a search. That is a direct affect on every cannabis consumer in Washington who now can’t be coerced into a search by the threat of the drug dog. (They also seem to affirm that possession of an ounce of marijuana or a pound of hash or 2¼ quarts of hash oil* is perfectly legal, even in the absence of any legal store from which to purchase it.)
At the county level, prosecutors in three Washington counties have dropped the marijuana possession charges against about 250 people. Marijuana is not legal in Washington until December 6th, but the prosecutors note that it would go against the will of the people and make it difficult to seat a jury that would convict someone for pot possession. That’s 250 people immediately affected by marijuana legalization, people who will no longer face being a convicted drug criminal on every job application, security clearance, background check, and rental application they fill out in the future.
At the state level, Governor Chris Gregoire of Washington and Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado are scrambling to get guidance from the US Department of Justice on how the federal government will enforce the Controlled Substances Act in the face of open state defiance of federal law. That’s two states the feds have to deal with, both with large legalization mandates. Had only one state passed legalization, it could be treated as a fluke and marginalized, especially in the wake of two other states losing legalization bids.
At the national level, the Democratic representatives from the state of Colorado, Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter, and Jared Polis, are working on bills in the House of Representatives to amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow states to set their own policies on marijuana. Again, with two states in play, the need for such legislation is twice as obvious and will have two states’ delegations fighting for it. This is the beginning of the unraveling of Richard Nixon’s 1970 Controlled Substances Act that ludicrously schedules marijuana alongside heroin, LSD, and PCP.
At the international level, the presidents of Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Costa Rica called for the Organization of American States and the United Nations to review global drug prohibition. The Latin American leaders question how they can continue to see their countries torn apart prohibiting the cultivation and trafficking of something that becomes legal once it reaches two American states. This is the beginning of the unraveling of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs Treaty that binds the US and the world to Harry J. Anslinger’s vision of global drug prohibition.
At no level did any of these government officials temper their actions because this wasn’t “true legalization”. I have long advocated that statewide marijuana legalization at any level, even if it was only a gram at home with possession of a license, changes the entire debate and sets into motion a toppling of dominoes that ends marijuana prohibition faster than anyone thought possible. For now it is LEGAL and the people affected by the issue are not CRIMINALS.
* In my neck of the woods, hash oil sells for $20 per gram. There are 2,041 grams in 72 ounces.