Since this is the season for year-end reviews, “best of” lists and the like, it seems like a good time to take note of why 2008 was one of the most successful years ever for marijuana policy reform. 2008 saw major progress on legal reforms plus a raft of new data that validated reformers’ critiques of current marijuana laws. Some highlights:
MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZED IN MASSACHUSETTS: A measure to replace criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with a $100 fine similar to a traffic ticket passed with a whopping 65 percent majority in the Bay State.
MICHIGAN BECOMES 13TH MEDICAL MARIJUANA STATE: The 63 percent majority racked up by Proposal 1 was the largest ever for a medical marijuana initiative and exceeded Barack Obama’s vote total in the state by six points.
A NEW PRESIDENT PLEDGES TO END FEDERAL RAIDS IN MEDICAL MARIJUANA STATES: During the campaign, president-elect Barack Obama repeatedly promised to end federal attacks on individuals obeying state medical marijuana laws. Strikingly, of the 13 medical marijuana states (including Michigan), Obama carried 11 — including such traditionally red states as Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico.
NEW RESEARCH VERIFIES MARIJUANA PAIN RELIEF: For the third time in less than two years, a published, peer-reviewed clinical trial demonstrated that marijuana safely and effectively relieves neuropathic pain, a notoriously hard to treat type of pain related to nerve damage, and often seen in illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and diabetes. The new study, from the University of California, was published online by the Journal of Pain in mid-April.
FEDERAL REPORTS DOCUMENT FAILURE OF CURRENT POLICIES: The Monitoring the Future survey, released Dec. 11, found that more 10th-graders now smoke marijuana than cigarettes, with teen marijuana use rising while teen use of cigarettes (which are legally regulated for adults) has dropped. The National Drug Threat Assessment, released Dec. 15, reported that despite record seizures, “marijuana availability is high throughout the United States.”