While Pres. Obama was reelected on Nov. 6, voters in Colorado and Washington State did what was once considered unimaginable: they passed initiatives that require the states to tax and regulate marijuana.
In Colorado, Amendment 64 won by a 54%-46% margin. In Washington State, Initiative-502 did Colorado one percentage point better (55%-45%).
Also, in Massachusetts, Question 3 passed overwhelmingly (63%-37%), making the Bay State the 18th to allow the use of medical marijuana.
Oregon failed to match Colorado and Washington's stunning victories; Measure 80 lost by a 55%-45% margin. In Arkansas, medical-marijuana referendum Issue 5 was barely defeated (52%-48%). And in Montana, voters upheld the legislature's ban on medical marijuana (57%-43%).
The votes in Colorado and Washington set in motion a direct challenge to federal law. Will the Obama administration stand in the way of progress or permit the new laws to go into effect without challenge or harassment? Colorado and Washington immediately become test states for marijuana legalization, like California was for medical marijuana in 1996, and Nevada and New Jersey were for gambling in the '60s and '70s. With these votes the point has tipped in favor of a new national marijuana policy. A former user who has favored decriminalization in the past, Obama has the chance to let the states to be laboratories for change, rather than battlegrounds, as has been the case with medical marijuana, especially in California, Colorado, Washington and Montana.
"The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will," said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who opposed A-64. "This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don't break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly."
A-64 co-campaign director Mason Tvert retorted, "This demonstrates that the people of Colorado are just as smart as we thought they were. They were fed up with prohibition and decided they want a more sensible approach."