As the first legal marijuana stores open in Colorado, and Washington state gets ready to issue licenses for producing, processing and selling marijuana, momentum is building in other states to legalize the drug, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Proponents of legalization are gathering signatures for ballot measures in at least five states, including California. In Florida, organizers announced this week they have gathered more than one million signatures in favor of putting a medical marijuana measure on the ballot. In Alaska, supporters of recreational marijuana delivered about 46,000 signatures to election officials—50 percent more than required. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced he will allow some patients with serious illnesses to have access to medical marijuana.
In October, a Gallup poll found a majority of Americans say marijuana should be legalized. The poll found 58 percent favor legalization, a 10 percent increase since the previous year. The first time Gallup started asking Americans about their view of legalization was in 1969, when just 12 percent supported the idea. In the 1970s, support reached 28 percent. In 2011, half of Americans said they favored legalization.
In an interview in this week’s New Yorker magazine, President Obama said he does not think marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol. Last fall, the U.S. Justice Department announced it will allow Colorado and Washington to carry out their new recreational marijuana laws, although marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The department said it will focus enforcement on criminal charges in specific areas, such as distribution to minors.
Alison Holcomb, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who wrote the ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana in Washington state, told the newspaper, “The ice-breaking effect of Washington and Colorado allowed more people to say [legalization] might be an option. If Oregon and Alaska go [for legalization] it will be very big. … And I’m holding out hope for California. If California goes in 2014, that’s going to be huge.”