It might just be time for the state of California to write another chapter in the marijuana history books by voting to legalize its recreational use for adults. Fourteen years ago now, in 1996, California was the first state to legalize the use of marijuana as medicine and there are now 14 states where it is legal to use medical marijuana, with other states soon to tag along.
Stephen Gutwillig, California director for the Drug Policy Alliance, says that this is a watershed moment in the decades-long struggle to end failed marijuana prohibition in the US.
“We really can’t overstate the significance,” he says, of Californians being the first to have “the opportunity to end this public policy disaster.”
In Rhode Island, another state under pressure from the economic downturn, legislators are also considering a plan to decriminalize possession of an ounce or less by anyone 18 or older.
In Washington, however, a proposal to legalize the sale and use of marijuana was recently defeated in that state’s legislature, although Washington lawmakers did enlarge the team of medical professionals authorized to prescribe the drug for medicinal use.
And a group in Nevada is pushing an initiative that marks the state’s fourth attempt in a decade to legalize the drug.
The California secretary of state’s office certified the initiative for the general election ballot Wednesday after it was determined that supporters had gathered enough valid signatures.
The initiative would allow those 21 years and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, and grow their own crop of the plant in gardens measuring up to 25 square feet.
The California proposal would ban users from ingesting marijuana in public or smoking it while minors are present. It also would make it illegal to possess the drug on school grounds or drive while under its influence.
Local governments would decide whether to permit and tax marijuana sales.