Marijuana Legalization Initiative Qualifies For Colorado Ballot

In January, marijuana legalization activists in Colorado turned in twice as many signatures as they needed to place a legalization initiative on the state’s 2012 ballot. Yesterday, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler officially announced that the activists had submitted enough signatures, meaning the initiative will appear on the ballot this November.

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, if passed, the Colorado initiative would legalize limited marijuana use and possession for adults over age 21, while regulating and taxing it like alcohol:

If passed, the initiative would allow adults 21 and older to possess and use limited amounts of marijuana. It would also establish a system of regulations to control and tax marijuana sales, much like the system that exists for alcohol, and direct the state legislature to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing, and sales of industrial hemp.

“Supporters of rational marijuana policies everywhere should congratulate the residents of Colorado for placing this initiative on the ballot,” Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release. Indeed, a slim majority of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, according to recent Gallup polling, while more than three-quarters support legalization for medicinal purposes. Sixteen states have legalized medical marijuana, but the federal government still maintains strict prohibition laws.

And while progressive Colorado Rep. Jared Polis (D) has led the fight to end marijuana prohibition at the federal level, the cause has also been taken up by libertarians who have used legalization as a wedge issue to attack the Constitution’s guarantee that national leaders can actually govern. Activists in California, for instance, sought to declare Justice Department enforcement of federal marijuana laws unconstitutional last year. While DOJ’s actions were unfortunate, the lawsuit itself was a seemingly frivolous way to attack the federal government.

Meanwhile, libertarian activists and politicians who view much of the 20th century’s social policy as unconstitutional have used marijuana liberalization as an issue to jump-start their anti-government crusades. That should concern progressives, who cannot afford to cede an increasingly popular issue that holds important implications for criminal justice reform and public safety to a movement that wants to use it as a way to end the social safety net and gut worker safety laws.