Public opinion in the U.S. has now decisively turned in favor of legalizing marijuana, with 57 percent in favor. Colorado and Washington are the first two states to legalize the drug, and both states will be watched closely to see how successful their above ground regulations work.
We will also be watching the U.S. Department of Justice to see whether or not it leaves Colorado and Washington alone to implement policies that represent the will of the people (both laws were the result of state referendums that passed with broad support).
So what is the big idea behind this historic development in the drug war? Why has public opinion moved the way that it has -- a 28-point swing in 5 years? According to Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a big part of the reason has been the success of medical marijuana. States were allowed to regulate it and people realized that the sky didn't fall, Nadelmann says. The public also was introduced to the new face of the marijuana consumer. It wasn't a teenager with dreadlocks smoking a joint. It was an older person using the drug "whether to medicate for multiple sclerosis or cancer or even just something for their aches and pains or PTSD." That moved a lot of minds.
But will this also move minds in Washington in order to open up medical marijuana research? It will require executive leadership to do that.