marijuana: The Legalization Question

With the increase in the number of middle-class users in the 1960s and 1970s, there came a somewhat greater acceptance of the view that marijuana should not be considered in the same class as narcotics and that U.S. marijuana laws should be relaxed. The Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 1970 eased federal penalties somewhat, and 11 states decriminalized possession. However, in the late 1980s many states rewrote their drug laws and imposed stricter penalties. Beginning in 1996, however, a series of states began enacting medical marijuana laws (see below). In 2012 voters in the states of Colorado and Washington approved the legalization of the private use and possession of small amounts of marijuana; since then nine more states, the District of Columbia, and two territories have taken similar steps. Opponents of easing marijuana laws have asserted that it is an intoxicant less controllable than alcohol, that society does not need another widely used intoxicant, and that the United States should not act to weaken UN policies, which are opposed to the use of marijuana for other than possible medical purposes. In 2013, Uruguay became the first nation to legalize the growing, selling, and use of marijuana, a move it undertook in part in an attempt to undermine drug cartels. Uruguay's legalization, which was a source of controversy in the country, also was critized by international authorities for contravening treaties to which Uruguay was a party. Canada became the second nation to legalize fully marijuana in 2018.

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