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Take That, Drug Warriors! 9 Amazing Signs We're Heading Towards Sane Drug Policy

This year was not a good one for drug warriors.



This year will go down in history as the the beginning of the end to America’s longest failed war: the war on drugs. Voters in Colorado and Washington made worldwide news by legalizing marijuana, Presidents around Latin America spoke out passionately against the drug war, and award-winning movies documented the horrors of the drug war and gave voice to those seeking change. Below are some of top stories of 2012 that capture the momentum and give us hope that we can and will find an exit strategy to the disastrous war on drugs.

1. Colorado and Washington Make History By Legalizing Marijuana

Washington State and Colorado made history on Election Day by becoming the first two states in the country – and the first political jurisdictions anywhere in the world – to approve the legal regulation of marijuana. These victories likely represent the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition in this country and in many others as well. Just as the repeal of alcohol Prohibition began in the late 1920s with individual states repealing their own prohibition laws, and ultimately culminated in the repeal of federal Prohibition, so Washington and Colorado have initiated a political process that will resonate nationally, especially with 50% of Americans now in favor of taxing and regulating marijuana.

2. California Votes to Reform Draconian "Three Strikes” Mandatory Minimum Law

After nearly 20 years and over $20 billion spent, Californians voted overwhelmingly to reform their state’s draconian “three strikes” law. The statewide ballot measure, Proposition 36, delivered a two-to-one mandate (68.6%-31.4%) to close a controversial loophole in the law so that life sentences can only be imposed when the new felony conviction is serious or violent. The original law was sold as a way to keep violent criminals behind bars but ending up snagging people whose third convictions were non-violent acts, such as stealing a pizza or possessing a small amount of drugs. As California set the trend for the passage of “three strikes” laws across the country in the 1990s, let’s hope it also sets the trend for reforming them.

3. Latin American Presidents “Break the Taboo” and Call for End to Drug War

Throughout Latin America, both former and current heads of state are demanding that the full range of policy options be expanded to include alternatives that help to reduce the prohibition-related crime, violence and corruption in their own countries – and insisting that decriminalization and legal regulation of currently illicit drug markets be considered. In February, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina garnered worldwide attention by calling for a debate on alternatives to the war on drugs, including decriminalization and regulation. His proposal quickly received support from other leaders in Latin America, including the presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica and Ecuador. Over the next few months, the failure of the war on drugs and alternatives to current strategies were discussed at events around the world and was the major focus of the Summit of the Americas held in Colombia in April.

4. Uruguay Poised to Become First Country in the World To End Marijuana Prohibition

Uruguay broke ground this year by submitting a proposal to legalize marijuana under government-controlled regulation and sale, making it the first country in the world where the state would sell marijuana directly to its citizens. The aim of the measure is to combat the rising insecurity and crime in Uruguay by removing the profits of marijuana sales from drug gangs and separating the marijuana market from those for other illegal drugs. Uruguay’s proposal moved the discussion and debate from whether to regulate marijuana to how to regulate marijuana.

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