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Like a seed down in the soil

The tone of the “political” get-together on campus Tuesday night was far too serious for my taste — we all should have been dancing.
The states of Colorado and Washington voted to legalize the recreational use of cannabis for persons age 21 and up Tuesday, while Massachusetts became the 18th state to legalize medicinal marijuana. A high tax rate will be imposed in Washington, and Colorado has pledged to spend the first $40 million in tax revenue generated by the sale of cannabis on education. It might be several months before shops begin to open up as the states adjust, but individual rights to possess will soon go into effect.
To see how a prohibition begins and ends, we will focus on Colorado. In 1937, the government passed the Marijuana Tax Act, effectively making cannabis illegal. Nonetheless, Americans continued to harvest hemp for its fiber and use marijuana in various forms for medicinal and recreational purposes. In 1970, possessing marijuana went from being a felony to being a misdemeanor in Colorado, and in 1979, the state passed a bill allowing medical marijuana for patients with cancer and glaucoma. Colorado passed Amendment 20 in 2000, legalizing medical marijuana in the state for patients with other conditions. Now, in 2012, Colorado has crossed the last line left by legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for adults via Amendment 64.
“The voters have spoken, and we have to respect their will,” Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said after the results of the vote were in. “This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.”
This brings me to the election results: When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, he said he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws” in regard to regulating marijuana.
However, raids on medicinal cannabis providers have been carried out in states that have legalized marijuana during Obama’s administration.
In a 2012 interview with the Rolling Stone, Obama clarified his position on the regulation of cannabis: “What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana — and the reason is because it is against federal law.”
Two states that voted to re-elect the president voted to put their new laws in direct conflict with federal law, and Obama will have to deal with this soon.
If the citizens of Colorado and Washington are able to set up shop without fear of being shut down by the federal government, we might be able to see what effect legalizing cannabis has on crime rates and economic growth; however, the impact of legalization will be impossible to measure if the states are consistently given hassle.
I hope the producers of marijuana who choose to follow the law in a state where marijuana has been legalized by the democratic process are allowed to do their business. There is no use in splitting these states up if the federal government will not tolerate the results of two statewide votes. Those who disagree with legalization in Colorado and Washington had their chance to vote; if the people wanted something different, both of the states would have voted the measures down like Oregon did.
While these measures might make it to the Supreme Court before Colorado and Washington are allowed to enact their new laws, I am optimistic for the future. With countless industrial and medicinal applications, the legalization of cannabis is a good idea. And like all good ideas, this one will get in men’s minds, and then it will grow and grow. The more minds it gets in, the more pressure other minds have to adopt it, and the powers working to contain it weaken and lose their control.
Let it burst and bloom.

Andrew Dickson is a religious studies senior from Terry. Follow him on Twitter @addoxfordms.