In Thursday's New York Times, the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation's leading drug policy reform organization, is running a full-page ad to thank voters in Colorado and Washington and emphasize the growing support for drug policy reform. Last month, Colorado and Washington became the first two states in the country -- and the first political jurisdictions anywhere in the world -- to approve legally regulating marijuana like alcohol, with both states' initiatives winning by decisive margins.
Voters in Washington and Colorado did more than just make history by voting to end their states' marijuana prohibition laws and attempt instead to regulate marijuana as a legal commodity. They performed a national service by catapulting the national conversation about drug policy to a new level of urgency and political significance. The ad appears just one week after President Obama commented on the votes in Colorado and Washington -- framing the conflict between federal and state law as a question to be resolved and stating that people who use marijuana in states that have legalized it should not be a "top priority" for federal law enforcement.
Even before the votes in Colorado and Washington were counted, 2012 had already been a watershed year for the burgeoning movement to end the war on drugs. Arguments that were articulated just five years ago primarily by intellectuals and activists, and three years ago by former presidents and policymakers, are now being advanced with growing sophistication and nuance by current presidents in Latin America and a small but growing number of elected officials in the United States.
In Latin America, presidents such as Juan Manuel Santos (Colombia), Otto Pérez Molina (Guatemala), and José Mujica (Uruguay) are embracing alternatives to prohibition. In a sign of the shifting political tides, two U.S. governors from opposite sides of the aisle who are often mentioned as 2016 presidential candidates -- New York's Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey's Chris Christie -- have embraced drug policy reform this year. Governor Christie broke ranks with fellow Republicans by calling the drug war a failure, while Governor Cuomo committed to ending New York's racially discriminatory marijuana arrest crusade. Even strange bedfellows like evangelical leader Pat Robertson and former President Jimmy Carter spoke out in support of legally regulating marijuana this year. And perhaps most tellingly, President Bill Clinton joined several other former presidents in sharply criticizing the war on drugs in the just-released documentary Breaking the Taboo.
This past year was the best ever for our growing movement to end the war on drugs. Marijuana legalization and broader drug policy reform have moved from the fringes to the mainstream of U.S. and international politics.
Below is the text of the ad running in Thursday's New York Times:
80 Years After the End of Prohibition, Prohibition is Finally Coming to an End
Voters in Washington and Colorado made history on Election Day when they voted to legally regulate and tax marijuana. Their votes signaled the beginning of the end for the costly and unjust war on drugs.
Thank you to the citizens of Washington and Colorado.
The Drug Policy Alliance is especially proud of this milestone, as we worked for years to make this historic day happen.
We'd also like to thank: President Bill Clinton for acknowledging the drug war's futility and failure; President Jimmy Carter and Pat Robertson for saying it's time to legalize marijuana; Governor Christie for calling the drug war a failure and Governor Cuomo for working to end New York's racially discriminatory marijuana arrest crusade; Congressmen Ron Paul and Barney Frank for introducing the first bill to end federal marijuana prohibition; Presidents Santos (Colombia), Pérez Molina (Guatemala) and Mujica (Uruguay) for breaking the taboo on alternatives to drug prohibition; and, most of all, our many allies around the world for demanding no more drug war.
We strive for the day when drug policies are no longer motivated by ignorance, fear and prejudice but rather by science, compassion, fiscal prudence and human rights, with education and treatment available for everyone. Help us fight the good fight by making a tax deductible donation.