Is it high time for the federal government to legalize marijuana?
That's what pot activists are asking a day after Colorado voters approved a historic ballot measure to tax legal marijuana sales, and Portland, Me., became the first East Coast city to vote to legalize marijuana for adults.
In Colorado, about 65 percent of voters approved Proposition AA, establishing a 15 percent tax on the wholesale sale of marijuana for adult use, and a 10 percent sales tax on retail marijuana sales, in addition to standard state and local sales taxes. The Colorado Legislative Council estimates that the initiative will generate $70 million in annual tax revenue, some of which will be used to fund the state's public school construction program.
"We are grateful voters approved funding that will allow for a strong regulatory environment, just like liquor is regulated," Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement. "We will do everything in our power to make sure kids don't smoke pot and that we don't have people driving who are high. This ballot measure gives Colorado the ability to regulate marijuana properly."
Meanwhile, voters in Portland, Me., overwhelmingly approved Question 1, eliminating all legal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults 21 and older within city limits.
In Michigan, three cities — including Lansing — voted to decriminalize the use or possession of up to an ounce of marijuana on private property by anyone 21 years or older.
The Election Day pro-pot victories come on the heels of a national poll that found, for the first time ever, a majority of Americans favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
According to the Gallup survey released late last month, 58 percent of Americans favor legalization, up 10 percent in the last year.
“Whatever the reasons for Americans' greater acceptance of marijuana, it is likely that this momentum will spur further legalization efforts across the United States,” Gallup said.
The Marijuana Policy Project, the pro-pot group that pushed the measures in Colorado and Portland, said it plans to campaign for legalization in 13 more states, including ballot initiatives in Maine, Alaska, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Montana and Nevada, and bills in the Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont state legislatures.
"It is only a matter of time before voters and lawmakers in other states recognize the benefits and adopt similar policies," Mason Tvert, Marijuana Policy Project director of communications, said on Tuesday.
And those who do won't likely face interference from the feds.
In an August memo, U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole said that the federal government would not attempt to interfere with efforts, like the ones in Washington and Colorado, to implement marijuana legalization laws passed by state voters.
The statement, coupled with recent votes, seems to have emboldened the legalization movement.
"It's time to move beyond prohibition and adopt a more sensible approach," David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said.