By any measure, 2009 has been the best year for marijuana policy reform in U.S. history. Indeed, public support for making marijuana legal just reached a record high of 44% nationwide. And check out these 10 signs of progress, all 10 of which have been spearheaded by MPP:
1. The governments of Massachusetts and Michigan implemented, without controversy, the ballot initiatives we passed in these two states on November 4 of last year. As a result, marijuana possession is now a $100 ticketable offense in Massachusetts (which therefore has the best marijuana-possession law in the country), and the possession and cultivation of medical marijuana is now legal in Michigan (which is the first midwestern state to legalize medical marijuana).
2. On October 19, the Obama administration announced that the DEA and the Justice Department would de-prioritize any new raids of medical marijuana establishments in California and elsewhere that are abiding by state law. This is the most significant, positive change in federal marijuana policy in 31 years!
3. On November 10, the American Medical Association rescinded its previous support of classifying marijuana alongside LSD, PCP, and heroin under federal law. The AMA calling for a federal review of marijuana's legal status has provided a huge boost to our lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill, just as we're pushing for the U.S. House to hold hearings in two months.
4. MPP has made significant progress on medical marijuana bills in Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York. (Indeed, we passed our bills through the Minnesota and New Hampshire legislatures this year, only to see both bills vetoed by hostile governors.) If we succeed in seven of those states between now and the summer of 2011 — which is actually looking likely at this point — the number of medical marijuana states will jump from 13 to 20. (In addition, the passage of the Drug Policy Alliance's bill in New Jersey, our 2010 initiative in Arizona, and a 2010 South Dakota initiative could bring the number to 23.)
5. We've already collected 200,000 of the 250,000 signatures that are needed in Arizona to place on the November 2010 ballot an initiative to legalize medical marijuana, including authorizing 120 dispensaries statewide, which would give Arizona the best medical marijuana law in the country. Fully 65% of Arizona voters support this initiative. It's easy to imagine this initiative will pass by a landslide in one year, given that the voters of Maine passed a similar initiative one month ago with 59% of the vote — with literally no money spent on advertising.
6. In California, a bill to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol is pending in the state Assembly, the introduction of which generated a huge wave of positive news coverage nationwide, which we followed up with a TV ad that generated an even bigger wave of news coverage. We're working to build support for this landmark piece of legislation, which has a chance to pass out of a committee in January.
7. MPP recently opened an office in Las Vegas, for the purpose of building a statewide coalition to pass a ballot initiative to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol. A similar initiative received 44% of the vote in November 2006, and support for making marijuana legal is rising by more than 1% a year, so we fully plan to pass this initiative in November 2012, which would give Nevada the best marijuana law in the world.
8. Other than California and Nevada, there are at least four other states that are now in play for being the first to end marijuana prohibition entirely: (1) Colorado, which has seen an explosion of medical marijuana dispensaries since January and is now polling at 48% in favor of regulating marijuana like alcohol; (2) Rhode Island, which recently overrode its governor's veto in order to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, and which has since launched a study commission to draft a bill to regulate marijuana like alcohol; (3) New Hampshire, where a bill to regulate and tax marijuana has been introduced for the 2010 session; and (4) Washington state, where six representatives have prefiled a bill to tax and regulate marijuana.
9. After 11 years of MPP's congressional lobbying efforts, the U.S. Congress finally removed the federal ban on implementing Washington, D.C.'s medical marijuana law. Medical marijuana could be available in our nation's capital starting this spring.
10. And it looks like, finally, we'll soon have a bill introduced in Congress that would wipe out marijuana prohibition entirely on the federal level, which is our ultimate goal in Washington, D.C. This will take years to pass, so we might as well get started now.