For months, people in Arizona and California have been talking about pot.
Proposition 19 in California to legalize marijuana for recreational use failed by about 9 percentage points. And it is still too soon to tell whether Arizonans have authorized medical marijuana with Proposition 203. (The measure is down about 5,500 votes with 300,000 votes left to count, says campaign manager Andrew Myers, who remains optimistic.)
But despite the failure in California and no matter what happens in Arizona, drug policy reformers won a major victory with yesterday’s election. For the first time in generations, people are talking seriously about marijuana policy, and the idea of ending prohibition is no longer an outrageous notion or fringe issue.
Ethan Nadelmann, of the Drug Policy Alliance, a major backer of Proposition 19, put out a note today to DPA supporters saying the measure made marijuana policy a mainstream political issue:
“Even without becoming law, Prop. 19 has had a permanent impact on the national conversation. This initiative has elevated and legitimized public discourse about marijuana and marijuana policy in a way I have never seen before. Because of Prop. 19, marijuana reform is now a mainstream political issue.”
Myers made similar comments about the impact of the medical marijuana conversation in Arizona. He noted that people are increasingly recognizing marijuana’s medicinal benefits, which he said he believes will eventually lead to action at the federal level to change marijuana to a Schedule 2 drug (like morphine and other addictive and potentially lethal drugs) that can be prescribed by doctors.
“If nothing else, at the end of this campaign we were having a very serious debate about marijuana policy . . . In the next generation we are going to see significant shifts in marijuana policy in many ways.”
A version of this post appeared on AZCentral.com as part of The Arizona Republic’s 36-hour Election blog.