The first indicator that some of the dominos were going to fall happened during the 1990s, when people began buying and selling marijuana for medicinal use. Starting with California in 1996, a number of states even partially decriminalized the banned plant when they realized that containment would be ineffective. Over the course of the next decade eighteen states and the District of Columbia passed legislation that meant medical marijuana users would be left alone. That is to say the state governments wouldn’t harass users, but the Feds kept up the pressure, and continued with their futile attempt to control that sector of the economy.
And then the people of two states, Colorado and Washington, decided to up the ante. Earlier this month they passed legislation that would allow pot smokers to freely use marijuana without the threat of kidnapping and prosecution from state bureaucrats. Almost overnight prosecutors in Colorado and Washington began dropping cases that solely involved possession charges.
Now, all of this is to be celebrated, for sure. But the really good news is just around the corner. Already legislators in four states, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont, have indicated they will present similar legislation in the coming session to follow Colorado and Washington. It was two years before another state joined California, and four years before six states had partially decriminalized marijuana.
Said Robert Capecchi, who works with the Marijuana Policy Project, “With these thoughtful legislators in at least four states planning on introducing sensible proposals to remove criminal penalties and regulate marijuana… it’s clear that ending marijuana prohibition is gaining momentum.” Truly, the dominoes are falling.
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Just as jury nullification was one of the elements in reversing Prohibition, each juror who refuses to convict a defendant accused of a victimless marijuana-related crime is not only protecting the defendant, but is also contributing to cultural change in which government punishing people for harmless activity is less and less tenable. As it becomes less effective to try these victimless cases before juries, prosecutors have less incentive to bring the cases to trial in the first place, law enforcement officials have less incentive to harass people on these charges, and legislators have less incentive to try and maintain and expand these laws against peaceful activity.