- The world is going to pot
- Denver Votes to End Marijuana Use and Possession Penalties
Are we seeing, as one prominent activist predicts, "the beginning of
the end of marijuana prohibition in the U.S."?
On November 1, Denver became the second major city in less than a
year to eliminate all civil and criminal penalties for the possession
of up to one ounce of marijuana by citizens age 21 and older.
Fully 54 percent of voters passed "I-100: The Alcohol-Marijuana
Equalization Initiative." This initiative, led by the organization
SAFER (Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation), argued that local
laws should treat the private adult use and possession of marijuana
in a manner similar to alcohol, and that its use by adults should not
be subject to criminal penalties.
Last fall Oakland, California voters approved a similar initiative
to "tax and regulate the sale of cannabis for adult use."
And on November 1 a proposal in Telluride, Colorado to make "the
investigation, arrest, and prosecution of marijuana offenses ... the
town's lowest law enforcement priority" missed winning by only 24
"A few years from now, this [Denver] vote may well be seen as the
proverbial 'tipping point,' the beginning of the end of marijuana
prohibition in the U.S.," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the
Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "Replacing the failed
policy of prohibition with common-sense taxation and regulation of
marijuana has become a thoroughly mainstream issue, with the voters
of two major U.S. cities endorsing such an approach within one year.
"Last year, there were more than three-quarters of a million
marijuana arrests, an all-time record," Kampia added. "That's
equivalent to arresting every man, woman, and child in the state of
Wyoming plus every man, woman, and child in St. Paul, Minnesota.
"The public understands that this simply makes no sense. Regulating
marijuana will take money out of the pockets of criminals and free
police to go after violent crime, and the voters of Denver took their
first step in that direction today."
Ironically, Denver was the site of the very first federal marijuana
arrest in American history. On October 2, 1937, Samuel R. Caldwell, a
58-year-old unemployed laborer, was arrested by the FBI and Denver
police for selling two marijuana cigarettes to a 26-year-old man. For
this dastardly act, Caldwell was sentenced to four years' hard labor
at Leavenworth Prison, and fined the then-enormous sum of $1,000.
Caldwell served every day of the sentence, and died a year after
Of course, local measures like the Denver one don't override state
and federal prohibitions against marijuana. But they give citizens
enormous and very real protection at the local level. Such measures
also very strongly catch the ear of federal politicians.
This may be part of a growing trend: pro-liberty communities defying
unjust federal laws by passing local legislation. It's quite similar
to the nationwide revolt against the Patriot Act by local and state
governments, which we've reported on in past issues.
Which city is next?
(Sources: Marijuana Policy Project (MPP):
NORML on the Samuel Caldwell tragedy: