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Colorado and Washington leading toward full-scale marijuana legalization

Sep 17, 2012

With unemployment still through the roof and the entire Middle East erupting into one big burning America-shaped effigy, social issues up for debate in November’s election are largely getting drowned out. Securing reproductive rights for women, marriage equality for gays, and legalizing marijuana have all but gone up in smoke lately. But a pair of new polls show some surprising progress on the last front, at least on the state level.

Six states have pot legalization proposals on the ballot this November and two of them, Colorado and Washington state, seem on the verge of a major first: Making marijuana a fully legal, regulated and taxed substance available to adults, just like alcohol and cigarettes.

New polls released this week indicate the Colorado measure, nicknamed the “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act,” is leading 51% to 40% in favor among likely voters, and the lead is even bigger in Washington, 57% to 34%.

If the bills pass it’ll mark a watershed moment for marijuana legalization advocates because it’ll mean pot for the first time will break out of the confines of “medicinal” restrictions, which requires a prescription and falls outside the parameters of most adults’ daily lives. If the bills pass, buying some pot could be no harder than picking up a six-pack at the corner store—and no more stigmatized.

Partly because of the cultural symbolism of this kind of ready mainstream availability, if the bills pass it’ll present a serious conundrum for the Obama administration: One would think it would be either forced to seriously escalate the already aggressive war on pot it pursued in its first term, or officially shift policy to allow for more leniency. If they kept their current drug policy stance and allowed adults to buy buds at the corner store, they’d just look like they were doing a terrible job at enforcing a federal criminal code.

Assuming the polls don’t change drastically over the next 7 weeks, the ball will be in Obama’s court.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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