On the Quiet, the US is Legalising Marijuana

From The Times:

You know things are shifting in America when Fortune magazine, the bible for business journalism, runs a cover story titled “Is pot already legal?”. You also know it when Barack Obama’s Department of Justice publishes a long-expected memo signalling that the federal government will no longer raid medical marijuana dispensaries if they are legal under state law. That happened formally this month.

It was not, moreover, a symbolic gesture. Marijuana for medical reasons — to tackle chemotherapy-induced nausea or Aids-related wasting or glaucoma, among other conditions — is now legal in 13 states, including the biggest, California. Next year, 13 more states are planning referendums or new laws following suit. Last week a California legislative committee held the first hearings not simply on whether medical marijuana should remain legal, but on whether all marijuana should be decriminalised, full stop. The incentive? The vast amounts of money the bankrupt state could raise by taxing cannabis.

Now look at the polling on the question. In 1970, 84% of Americans supported keeping marijuana illegal. Today, that number has collapsed to 54%. The proportion believing that marijuana should be legal has gone from 18% at the end of the 1960s to 44% today. On current trends, a majority of Americans will favour legalisation by the end of Obama’s first term. In the western states, 53% already favour legalising and taxing the stuff. Support for legalisation is strongest among the young — the Obama generation — but has climbed among self-described Republicans as well.

But the reality is already ahead of the polls. Take a trip, so to speak, to Los Angeles today, where one would be forgiven for thinking that marijuana was already legal. There are more than 800 marijuana dispensaries in the city — and an estimated 7,000 in the state of California as a whole (many times more than in Holland).

[Read the entire story at The Times]

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