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Marijuana Legalization In Washington State: A One-Year Status Report


Washington I 502As several states consider marijuana legalization initiatives, all eyes are on the initial outcomes of Washington’s marijuana law. In 2012, Washington and Colorado became the first two states to pass laws taxing and regulating marijuana. Wednesday will mark the one-year anniversary of retail marijuana sales in Washington. Adult possession of marijuana became legal on December 6, 2012, 30 days after the passage of I-502, the voter-approved initiative legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and older. A year-and-a-half later, the first retail marijuana store opened its doors on July 8, 2014.

A new report by the Drug Policy Alliance brings good news for the state and the broader marijuana legalization movement by highlighting data on public safety, youth marijuana use, and the economy before and after passage of I-502. Since adult possession of marijuana became legal eighteen months ago, the state has benefitted from a dramatic decrease in marijuana arrests and convictions, as well as increased tax revenues. During the same period, the state has experienced a decrease in violent crime rates. In addition, rates of youth marijuana use and traffic fatalities have remained stable.

“Marijuana prohibition has been a costly failure—to individuals, communities, and the entire country,” says Tamar Todd, Director of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Washington should be praised for developing a smarter, more responsible approach to marijuana.”

The report’s key findings include:

  • Filings for low-level marijuana offenses are down 98% for adults 21 and older. All categories of marijuana law violations are down 63% and marijuana-related convictions are down 81%.
  • The state is now saving millions of dollars in law enforcement resources that were previously used to enforce marijuana laws.
  • Violent crime has decreased in Washington and other crime rates have remained stable since the passage of I-502.
  • Washington has collected nearly $83 million in marijuana tax revenues. These revenues are funding substance abuse prevention and treatment programs, youth and adult drug education, community health care services, and academic research and evaluation on the effects of marijuana legalization in the state.
  • The number of traffic fatalities remained stable in the first year that adult possession was legalized.
  • Youth marijuana use has not increased since the passage of I-502.
  • Washington voters continue to support marijuana legalization. Fifty-six% continue to approve of the state’s marijuana law – about the same as when it was approved in 2012 – while only 37% oppose, a decrease of 7 points since the election of 2012.  More than three-quarters (77%) believe the law has had either a positive impact or no effect on their lives.

In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two U.S. states – and the first two jurisdictions in the world – to approve ending marijuana prohibition and legally regulating marijuana production, distribution and sales. In the 2014 election, Alaska and Oregon followed suit, while Washington D.C. passed a more limited measure that legalized possession and home cultivation of marijuana (but did not address its taxation and sale due to D.C. law). The Drug Policy Alliance and its electoral arm, Drug Policy Action, worked closely with local and national allies to draft each of these initiatives, build coalitions and raise funds. Voters in several states, including California, Massachusetts, Arizona, Ohio, Nevada and Maine, are expected to consider similar marijuana legalization initiatives on the 2015 and 2016 ballots.

“By shifting away from unnecessary marijuana arrests and focusing instead on public health, Washington is better positioned to address the potential harms of marijuana use, while also diminishing many of the worst harms of the war on drugs,” added Todd.

As support for marijuana reform increases and attitudes shift, the Drug Policy Alliance is encouraging news outlets to use images that accurately reflect modern-day marijuana consumers and has released free, open-license stock photos and B-roll footage for editorial use.

DPA Fact Sheet: Why is Marijuana Decriminalization Not Enough?

DPA Fact Sheet: A Comparison of the World’s First Three Jurisdictions to Legally Regulate Marijuana: Colorado, Washington, and Uruguay

Source: Drug Policy Alliancemake a donation


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Johnny Green


  1. The state owned monopoly is screwing everyone except the state. The customers suffer, the growers suffer and the state makes bank. Cannabis has been a hidden economic booster for decades from the shadows, from illegal black market old-school to the fifteen plant allowance for medical patients. Those people spent their profits at local businesses. Now, the money is all with the “state” and no longer helping our economy in a realistic local way. Cannabis should not be a state monopoly! And I don’t even want to get started on what this has done to the quality of cannabis in the area. Crap.

  2. One more thing, with all the problems incarceration has brought to the people of this nation you still fail to see the problems with prohibition. We are the nation with the highest number of non-violent prisoners in the world, more than North Korea, Iran, China and Russia. The incarceration model has ruined more live and broken more families than legal cannabis will ever cause!

  3. We are not going to hell and the sky has not fallen as adults and free Americans we should be allowed to make our own choices. There are a lot of things that are bad for you that are not out-lawed such as excessive sun tanning, consuming excessive sugars etc. Doctor these days have not found a cure to anything all they want to do is manage the symptoms ever ask your self why they have not found a cure for the common cold. When it comes to managing symptom, you might as well do it yourself, since no one knows your body better than you. For many years people have been saying that a little herb is good for you. Now, we say we told you so!

  4. The nation need to know the good news. It’s another WE TOLD YOU SO moment. Cannabis users are a lot more civilized that reefer madness prohibitionist give us credit for. Most of us are hard working Americans with jobs and families and most of us are very responsible people.

  5. Kimberly Walden on

    With such a great report ; money made. Greed is steal the backbone of the board. Proof there is not one person on our New formed board, with a medical degree that are screwing the sick. How many looking at medical license and making That final decision have a medical background, and are educated at all on the entire matter. I hope all their pockets get full just they way they want them, hope it fills their empty souls.

  6. “The number of traffic fatalities remained stable in the first year that adult possession was legalized”.
    What does that have to do with anything? They already KNOW that as that trend started awhile back. Now they just have to monetize the “driving while having metabolites in your bloodstream angle” making criminals behind the wheel out of those that have basically proven the other side of that argument – it IS safer than alcohol as well as they (cannabis consumers) are safer behind the wheel and are safer on the road than those that consume alcohol. And that’s why there’s no studies going on about this. IF the real truth was known about cannabis users being impaired comparable to alcohol consumers it’s another one of those govt non-issues they’re so fond of…resurrecting for additional funds from John Q. Public every now and then but with increasing frequency. It’s not so much for them about science as it is for them to be in control. Science will prove the stoner’s not the threat on the highways the powers that be would like you to believe. And we couldn’t have that now, could we??

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