Photo: Wiros

Colorado passes Amendment 64, making it the first state in the US to legalize possession of marijuana. Washington passes similar law.

GO AHEAD AND SEARCH TWITTER right now for Amendment 64 and your dosage of Denver Nuggets jokes, Hunter S. Thompson / Rocky Mountain High / munchies references, and people’s imminent drug tourism plans. Currently I’m getting about 100 new tweets every 5 minutes, with what appear to be 100% positive responses — a moment of collective relief, jubilation, a reminder of how much repression informs our national identity.

The ballot initiative, which passed last night (53% to 46%) in Colorado, will legalize personal use, possession, and limited cultivation of marijuana for people 21 and older, as well as establish a system for marijuana regulation / taxation similar to that governing alcohol, with a requirement that the first $40 million in revenue raised annually be credited to the public school captial construction assistance fund. (The full text of the amendment is here. Washington passed a similar measure.)

Because federal law still considers marijuana an illegal drug, the trajectory of Amendment 64 is uncertain. As reported in The Daily Camera, state Attorney General John Suthers says he will respect the “the will of the voters,” but warned of legal challenges, saying:

The ability of the federal government to criminally sanction possession, use and distribution of marijuana, even if grown, distributed and used in a single state, was recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nevertheless, Attorney General Eric Holder, who said in 2010 he would “‘vigorously enforce’ federal marijuana prohibition, has continued to remain silent on the issue this year.” (Huffington Post)

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) was also against Amendment 64 but conceded, “The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” adding, “This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through.”

Aside from the economic benefits to Colorado — not just through excise taxes and marijuana tourism (you can almost visualize new shows at The Travel Channel) — and certainly the long overdue disburdening of law enforcement / disruption of black market drug operations, the only legitimate and peaceful solution to the disastrous “War on Drugs” — the real story to me is how marijuana’s legalization advances America’s cultural narrative.

Opponents of marijuana legalization fear that it will lead to increased usage. But what leads people to begin smoking pot isn’t pot. It’s repression. It’s the crossing of some abstract cultural threshold, of doing something illicit, rebellious, potentially dangerous.

(Fast forward 30 years and you’re a high-functioning ad exec, politician, college professor with your pathetic one-hitter hidden in your desk, wondering what happens if your kids / coworkers / whoever finds out. This isn’t a “drug problem,” it’s a culture problem.)

Remove this “attraction,” show tolerance for responsible usage, and treat addiction as a disease and not a symptom of delinquency, and suddenly we’ve advanced our culture 300 years. This is what Colorado and Washington did: They’ve actually evolved as places. When the rest of the country catches up, we can finally enjoy actually smoking pot. Or not.

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