The AP reports on an increase in efforts to decriminalize marijuana possession or use at the state level.
Legalization bills were introduced in California and Massachusetts earlier this year, and this month, New Hampshire and Washington state prefiled bills in advance of their legislative sessions that begin in January. Marijuana is illegal under federal law, but guidelines have been loosened on federal prosecution of medical marijuana under the Obama administration.
Drug legalization proponent Ethan Nadelman’s thinks this shows “we are close to the tipping point” for marijuana legalization. That seems like an overly optimistic assessment to me. States cannot truly decriminalize marijuana so long as federal prohibition remains in place, and politicians are sufficiently risk averse that I doubt we will see any significant moves on the federal front in the near future.
I still think there are two exogenous factors that work in legalization’s favor. First, the polling data I’ve seen suggests younger voters are much less supportive of marijuana prohibition than older voters. Insofar as this represents a generational difference, this would suggest that opposition to marijuana prohibition would rise over time. Second, as the story notes, many states are in dire need of new revenue sources. This could make the legalization, and taxation, of marijuana more attractive to politicians.