Three US states are set to legalise recreational cannabis use this week in votes that could have major implications for the country’s war on drugs. Alongside their choice for president, residents of Washington, Oregonand Colorado — a swing state — will be asked on Tuesday if they want to decriminalise cannabis.
If the measures are passed, adults over 21 would be able to possess, distribute and use small amounts. Cannabis for authorised medical use is allowed and regulated by each state, even though it is against federal law.
Support is particularly strong in Washington and Colorado, but a “yes” vote in any of the states would be interpreted by the Department of Justice as an act of defiance against the federal government’s war on drugs — the national law enforcement programme that spends $44bn a year struggling to stem the tide of illegal drugs in the US.
In June 2011, however, the Global Commission on Drug Policy declared that the war on drugs had failed.
In a swing state such as Colorado, putting the liberal measure on the ballot could even help to keep the battleground state — narrowly won for Obama in 2008 — on the president’s side. Obama has taken a soft line on medical cannabis use.
If recreational use is approved, a new drug industry would inevitably boom and the states expect a tax bonanza from the income generated. Colorado plans to spend the first $40m a year on schools.
Guardian News Service