November 7, 2012 10:19AM

Historic Moment for Drug Policy Reform Movement

The momentum for drug policy reform continues to gather strength and is now undeniable. Voters in two states–Colorado and Washington–have now approved marijuana legalization under state law. This represents a historic moment in the drug reform movement. Rejecting the hard‐​line ‘lock’em up’ mentality that has dominated U.S. drug policy, two states have now broken rank and will now try a new approach.

Legalization means adult marijuana users should not be treated like criminals. Legalization means police should spend their time more wisely – focusing on violent offenders, not people who choose to grow and use marijuana. Federal law remains in effect, but the Obama administration should allow the states to chart another path. One of the benefits of our federal system is that states can experiment with different policies so we can learn what works well and what does not. 

It should also be noted that voters in Massachusetts overwhelmingly approved an initiative that would legalize medical marijuana, which continues the liberalization trend in that area. Several cities in Michigan – most notably Detroit – voted to decriminalize marijuana for adults.

From the west coast to the east coast, the political climate for drug policy reform is getting better and better.

For related Cato work, go here and here.