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Our Nation's Raging Conversation About Marijuana

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Our nation has been mired in a war against marijuana that has proven to be as wrong-minded and counterproductive as the prohibition against alcohol back in the 1930s. Recognizing the social and economic toll this war on pot was causing our country (not to mention the civil liberties concerns), I long ago embraced this cause. I've been advocating for the legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use for over a decade.

Until the last couple of years, people could hardly talk about marijuana in polite company. That's why, five years ago, the ACLU produced a documentary called Marijuana: It's Time for a Conversation," and asked me to help write and host it. (Believe it or not, even that recently, TV stations were afraid to run this program -- they wouldn't even sell infomercial time for that topic before midnight.) If the ACLU wanted to start a conversation, they certainly did. And things have really crescendoed since Washington and Colorado actually legalized pot in 2012.

If you've followed my work, you know that I was very active as a co-sponsor of Initiative 502, which legalized marijuana in Washington State. Watch the stump speech that I gave all over the state during that campaign.

Here's the press I've noticed, just in the last week, as our nation moves rapidly to take the crime out of the marijuana equation:

  • Last Sunday, I had dinner with the leadership at NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) in Washington DC. That same day, the Washington Post came out essentially congratulating NORML and other drug policy reform groups for an amazingly productive last couple of years.
  • On Monday, I flew to Corpus Christi, deep in the south of Texas, to give a talk to a group of seniors. I explained to them (among many other lessons from my travels) why our nation's war on marijuana is a counterproductive and costly mistake. I was impressed that a room full of senior Texans saw the practicality of ending this prohibition.
  • On Tuesday, back home, I watched an hour-long show on CNBC reviewing how the first two months of legalized marijuana in Colorado is going.
  • On Wednesday, I read that the president of Uruguay, José Mujica, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for making his country the first in the world to fully legalize marijuana.
  • And on Thursday, in the Huffington Post, I found this article by John Wenzel (writer for The Cannabist and the Denver Post), sharing my take on the rapidly changing marijuana situation in the USA.

What's next? I just met with my friends at the ACLU and other drug policy reform activists and learned why we'll wait until 2016 for California...but it's all hands on deck to legalize in Oregon later this year. To do what I can to help out, I agreed to spend five days on an "end the prohibition against marijuana" lecture tour in Oregon. I'll announce dates soon. Learn more at New Approach Oregon.

If you're in a state (or a state of mind) that is worried that all hell is about to break loose, trust me: The goal is to stop an expensive, racist, and non-productive war on marijuana and to regulate and tax its adult recreational use smartly. I firmly believe that, while use may spike with the giddiness that comes with being able to enjoy a joint legally, consumption will stay about the same in the long run -- and we'll end a violent black market and the other unintended evils that come with a prohibition. Stay tuned...

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