Marijuana Legalization and Regulation

The Basics
Voters in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., all voted to legalize marijuana for adults in the 2014 election. They joined Colorado and Washington, which legalized marijuana in 2012.
Uruguay became the first country to legalize marijuana in December 2013.
There is more public support for reform than ever before with new polls showing more than half the country is in favor of taxing and regulating marijuana.
Countries that have adopted less punitive policies did not experience an increase in marijuana consumption or marijuana-related harm relative to more punitive countries.
Replacing marijuana prohibition with a system that taxes and regulates use for adults over 21 would yield $14 billion in combined annual savings and tax revenues.
Voters in Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana for adults in 2012. Legal retail sales started in Colorado in January 2014.

Five jurisdictions in the United States have changed their laws to legalize small amounts of marijuana:

  • Colorado
  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • Alaska
  • Washington, D.C.

There is more public support for reform than ever before with new polls showing more than half the country is in favor of legalizing marijuana. The Drug Policy Alliance believes marijuana should be removed from the criminal justice system and regulated like alcohol and tobacco. 

Creating jobs
Legalizing and regulating marijuana will bring the nation's largest cash crop under the rule of law. This will create jobs and economic opportunities in the formal economy instead of the illicit market.

Saving money
Scarce law enforcement resources that could be better used to ensure public safety would be preserved while reducing corrections and court costs. State and local governments would acquire significant new sources of tax revenue from regulating marijuana sales. 

Reducing harm
The criminalization of marijuana use disproportionately harms young people and people of color, sponsors massive levels of violence and corruption, and fails to curb youth access.

Marijuana Product Standardization and Testing

Marijuana product testing is becoming a standard requirement for legalized marijuana markets. This allows consumers to become better informed about the cannabinoid profile and potency of marijuana they consume.

DPA recommendations

  • Consumers should consider requesting information on any pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers, or any other residual solvents that could remain on flowers after the cultivation process.
  • Consumers should be sure to inquire about the potency and dosage of an edible product, especially if they are a novice consumer or if the package is not clearly labeled.
  • Testing for mold, fungus, bacteria, and other microbial organisms should be required to ensure safety and quality. The effects of consuming some of these chemicals, especially in the immunocompromised, could be significant.
  • Flowers and other cannabis products sold to consumers should include cannabinoid profiles, including the content of THC, CBD and other major cannabinoids, and the number and concentration of doses. This is especially important for edible products, which can contain widely varying doses of cannabis. 

Our Commitment to Legalizing Marijuana for Adults

The Drug Policy Alliance is a leader in the movement to legalize and regulate marijuana. DPA played a pivotal role in funding and managing ballot initiatives and legislative campaigns in many of the states that adopted medical marijuana laws from 1996 to 2014. Those campaigns included drafting and passing New Mexico’s 2007 law that made it the first state to license and regulate the production and distribution of marijuana through a state agency. This model served as the foundation for all medical marijuana laws that followed, as well as the successful legalization initiatives in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska.  

DPA works closely with local and national allies, including organized labor, civil rights groups, parents, and law enforcement to draft initiatives, build coalitions and raise funds to advance marijuana law reform. DPA was involved financially and conceptually in each of the campaigns to legalize and regulate marijuana on the state level starting with Prop 19 in California in 2010. This paved the way for the 2012 victories in Washington and Colorado and the 2014 victories in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. DPA plans to play a similar role as this movement advances in 2016 and beyond.    

DPA also works for reform on the federal level to end federal marijuana prohibition and to protect state level reforms. Internationally, in the last several years DPA advised governments at the highest level in Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia on reforming their drug policies. DPA also advised Uruguay when they became the first country to legalize marijuana