What a Difference 24 Hours Makes for Marijuana Policy Reform

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August 1, 2013 - By Amanda Reiman

It’s been quite a 24-hour period for marijuana policy reform.

On both the national and international level, marijuana prohibition is being slowly chipped away. Today, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed HB1 into law, making Illinois the 20th U.S. state, plus Washington, D.C. to establish a medical marijuana program.

This means that approximately 114,700,000 Americans now live in a state or jurisdiction that has a medical marijuana program. Less than 20 years ago, there was not one state in the U.S. that had a medical marijuana program.

Confusion still exists however, because according to the Federal government, there is no such thing as “medical” marijuana. Tell that to those 114,700,000 Americans and the 85 percent of us who support the use of marijuana for therapeutic reasons.

Although the Illinois bill is restrictive, not allowing use for chronic pain or for those under 18 even under a doctor’s care, it is another example of a state straying from the Draconian drug laws laid out and enforced by the Federal government.

One more state standing up to the Feds in an attempt to better serve its citizens. For over 40 years now, the U.S. Federal government has bullied its states and other nations into supporting their Drug War blueprint.

But that support is starting to crumble, and not just in the U.S.

Something else historic happened in the past 24 hours, Uruguay came one step closer to becoming the first country to fully legalize marijuana.  On Wednesday, the Uruguayan House of Representatives approved a bill to legally regulate marijuana. Passing with 50 out of 96 votes, the bill now goes to the Senate. The bill allows three forms of access to marijuana: domestic cultivation of 6 plants, membership clubs similar to those found in other countries such as Spain, and licensed sale in pharmacies. It also prohibits sales to minors, driving under the influence, and all forms of advertising. If approved by the Senate, Uruguay will become the first country in the world to legally regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana.

The point has been tipped, the genie out of the bottle, just as alcohol prohibition slowly disintegrated once the first stone was cast, marijuana prohibition is beginning to dissipate.

Two U.S. states, Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana and it’s only a matter of time until 20 medical marijuana states becomes 20 states with legal marijuana for adults.

Will the Feds fight the tide? Or try to swim with it.

Amanda Reiman is a policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance.

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