Sure, Tuesday night saw big victories for Bill de Blasio, Chris Christie, and Terry McAuliffe — but the real winner, guys, was marijuana. Stoners around America are celebrating Wednesday, thanks to big wins across three states on the pot front. Maine, Colorado, and Michigan join a growing contingent of states that are flouting federal law in favor of laxer pot rules. President Barack Obama continues to push for stricter marijuana laws in spite of the trend, but everybody knows that he was an active member of a stoner group named "The Choom Gang" in college, so there's that.
Tuesday's first weed victory comes from Portland, Maine, the state's largest city, where voters approved a measure to legalize marijuana possession for over-21s. Now, Portland residents will be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, which is an increase on previous allowances — 2.5 ounces more than twice the amount allowed in the state of Washington, for example. The measure was passed by an overwhelming 70 percent of the vote, and a statewide legalization effort is expected in the next few years. Portland also has the distinction of being the first East Coast city to legalize pot.
And over in Michigan, three entire cities decriminalized marijuana possession Tuesday. The largest was Lansing, which approved a proposal to allow "use, possession or transfer of less than 1 ounce of marijuana, on private property, by a person who has attained the age of 21 years." But the ballot measure might run into state and federal law, and Michigan's attorney general has already expressed concerns about the initiative. Still, advocates hailed Tuesday's vote as a victory. "The message is sent loud and clear. It’s mind boggling if [state] lawmakers don’t take this up and legalize marijuana in Michigan," said Jeffrey Hank, of Coalition For A Safer Lansing.
Two smaller cities in Michigan, Jackson and Ferndale, also decriminalized the drug. In Jackson, citizens over age 21 will now be allowed to carry up to an ounce of the drug. In Ferndale, authorities will now be instructed to ignore possession by adults over age 21 of an ounce or less of marijuana on private property.
On Twitter, the people rejoiced:
Of course, local governments won't reap the real benefits of marijuana use until they start taxing it. Exactly such a measure was approved in Colorado by voters on Tuesday, after the state recently legalized recreational marijuana use. Voters approved an initiative to heavily tax the drug, and the new taxes are expected to bring in $67 million in revenue a year. (Of course, that's not counting all the money saved by not imprisoning people for recreational marijuana use, or for marijuana sales.) In some areas of the state, taxes on weed might now be nearing 30 percent. Potheads are sad, of course, but we think it might be okay.
At Hempfast festival last summer, authorities managed to find a creative way to remind stoners that, though marijuana is legal now, there are still firm restrictions governing its use: They put little informational stickers on a thousand packets of Doritos, and pretty much threw them at festival-goers.