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The Changing Landscape of Drug Laws in the United State

The Changing Landscape of Drug Laws in the United State

Marijuana reform laws were on the ballot in November 2012. Voters in six states—Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, Montana, Oregon and Washington—voiced their opinions on measures to legalize recreational marijuana and to legalize medical marijuana.

Legalized Recreational Marijuana

Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. A ballot measure in a third state, Oregon, failed to garner the necessary support.

But the Colorado and Washington laws have a considerable foe: The federal government. A 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case, Gonzales v. Raich, found that the U.S. government can criminalize marijuana even if local laws decriminalize it.

According to, "Though President Obama said there wouldn’t be a federal campaign against individual marijuana users in Colorado and Washington, U.S. Attorneys in both states have reminded citizens that their responsibility to enforce pot prohibition remains unchanged."

A number of states and cities have already decriminalized small amounts of marijuana that are intended for personal use. Users may still be fined for possession, but they won't be charged with a misdemeanor or felony crime.

Legalized Medical Marijuana

Massachusetts voters legalized medical marijuana in November 2012, while Arkansas and Montana voters rejected new medical marijuana laws. Massachusetts join a host of other states that have previously legalized medical marijuana.

Cannabis is used to treat a variety of medical issues, including pain, nausea and glaucoma. Medical marijuana users typically get a doctor's prescription, which allows them to buy pot in specific quantities from licensed dispensaries.

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