Efforts to legalize marijuana for recreational use are gaining momentum in Washington state and Colorado, despite fierce opposition from the federal government and a decades-long cultural battle over America’s most commonly used illicit drug.
Officials in Washington state on Friday said an initiative to legalize pot has enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in November. In Colorado, officials are likely this week to make a similar determination about an initiative there.
Supporters are prepared to possibly spend millions of dollars ahead of the November ballot, when they hope a strong voter turnout, particularly among youth, for the U.S. presidential election will aid their cause.
“Whether it’s make or break depends on what public opinion does after 2012, but in terms of voter turnout this is the best year to do it,” said Alison Holcomb, director of New Approach Washington, the initiative’s sponsor.
While 16 states, including Washington and Colorado, along with the nation’s capital, now allow marijuana use for medical purposes, cannabis remains an illegal narcotic under U.S. law – and public opinion is sharply divided on the merits of full legalization.
California voters turned back a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2010, in part because of concerns about how production and sale of the drug would be regulated.
Since then, the U.S. Department of Justice has cracked down on medical cannabis operations in California, Washington state and elsewhere, raiding dispensaries and growing operations and threatening landlords with prosecution.
Read on at Reuters here