Marijuana Legalization in Washington State: One-Year Status Report

Press Release July 5, 2015
Media Contact

Contact:
Tony Newman 646-335-5384
Tamar Todd 510-593-4908

As 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:

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

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