Making Recreational Pot Legal Now Seems Possible

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on February 08, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Washington State is poised to become the first state to legalize recreational pot use. On January 26, the Secretary of State certified Initiative 502, finding that supporters collected enough signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.

Polls show that 48% of voters support the ballot measure, while only 45% oppose it.

And if Washington doesn't legalize recreational pot this November, Colorado may. Activists fell about 3,000 signatures short of a ballot measure, but have until February 21 to collect the rest. It's not expected to be too difficult.

Pro-pot activists in California, Michigan and Montana are also collecting signatures in hopes of legalizing recreational pot, reports Time. If successful, all of these measures will be put to a vote within the next year.

But even if voters agree to legalize recreational pot use, there may still be criminal consequences for possession. In 2005's Gonzales v. Raich, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the federal government, finding that it is ultimately in charge of drug policy.

As it stands, Congress has no plans to legalize pot -- for recreational or medicinal use. Agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency may still be told to destroy an individual's crop. Federal prosecutors may still choose to prosecute someone selling or growing the drug. This is possible even when an individual complies with state regulations.

So while the state may leave recreational pot users alone, the federal government may not. Ultimately, the only surefire way to legalize recreational pot use is to go through Congress.

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