altering the course of u.s. social policy, colorado & washington set up a showdown with federal authorities by legalizing recreational use of marijuana. maine & maryland became the first states to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote. the outcomes for those ballot measures tuesday were a milestone for persistent but thwarted activists & advocacy groups who for decades have pressured for drug decriminalization & gay rights.
"today the state of washington looked at 70 years of marijuana prohibition & said it's time for a new approach," said alison holcomb, manager of the campaign that won passage of initiative 502 in washington. colorado governor john hickenlooper, a democrat who opposed legalization, was less enthused. said hickenlooper, "federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the cheetos or goldfish too quickly."
the marijuana measures in colorado & washington could pose headaches for the u.s. department of justice (doj) & drug enforcement administration (dea), which consider pot an illegal drug. the doj has declined to say how it would respond if the measures were approved. colorado's amendment 64 will allow adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, but using the drug publicly is banned. amendment 64 allows people to grow up to six marijuana plants in a private, secure area.
washington's measure establishes a system of state-licensed marijuana growers, processors & stores, where adults can buy up to an ounce. it also establishes a standard blood test limit for driving under the influence of marijuana. the washington measure was notable for its sponsors & supporters, who ranged from public health experts & wealthy high-tech executives to two former top justice department's officials in seattle, u.s. attorneys john mckay & kate pflaumer.
ethan nadelmann of the drug policy alliance, which opposes the so-called "war on drugs," said, "marijuana policy reform remains an issue where the people lead & the politicians follow...but washington state shows that many politicians are catching up." estimates show pot taxes could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars annually, but the sales won't start until state officials make rules to govern the legal weed industry.
the washington measure was opposed by derek franklin, president of the washington association for substance abuse & violence prevention. franklin said, "legalizing is going to increase marijuana use among kids & really create a mess with the federal government. it's a bit of a tragedy for the state." in oregon, a marijuana-legalization measure was defeated. in massachusetts, voters approved a measure to allow marijuana use for medical reasons, joining 17 other states. but in arkansas, a similar measure was rejected by their voters.
the results in maine & maryland broke a 32-state streak, dating to 1988: gay marriage was rebuffed by every state voting on it. they will become the seventh & eighth states to allow same-sex couples to marry. in another gay-rights victory, minnesota voters defeated a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same sex-marriages there. similar measures were approved in 30 other states, most recently in north carolina in may.
"the tide has turned - when voters have the opportunity to really hear directly from loving, committed same-sex couples & their families, they voted for fairness," said rick jacobs of the courage campaign, a california-based gay rights group. said jacobs, "those who oppose the freedom to marry for committed couples are clearly on the wrong side of history."
washington state also voted on a measure to legalize same-sex marriage, though results were not expected until wednesday at the soonest. the outcomes of the marriage votes could influence the u.s. supreme court, which will soon consider whether to take up cases challenging the law that defines federal recognition to same-sex marriage. the gay-rights victories come on the heels of numerous national polls that - for the first time - show a majority of americans supporting same-sex marriage.
maine's referendum marked the first time that gay rights supporters put same-sex marriage to a popular vote. they collected enough signatures to schedule the vote, hoping to reverse a 2009 referendum that quashed a gay-marriage law enacted by the legislature. in maryland & washington, gay-marriage laws were approved by lawmakers & signed by the governors this year, but opponents gathered enough signatures to challenge the laws.
maryland governor martin o'malley, who campaigned vigorously for the marriage measure, spoke to a jubilant crowd in baltimore. christopher wold, 31, danced with his partner of four years after the results became clear. he said they'd like to marry now that it's legal in maryland. said wold, "it feels so good to be accepted by so many people of all different backgrounds. it just feels wonderful."
the president of the most active advocacy group opposing same-sex marriage, brian brown of the national organization for marriage, insisted tuesday's results did not mark a watershed moment. said brown, "at the end of the day, we're still at 32 victories. just because two extreme blue states vote for gay marriage doesn't mean the supreme court will create a constitutional right for it out of thin air." heading into the election, gay marriage was legal in six states & the district of columbia - in each case the result of legislation of court orders, not by a vote of the people.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.