From the Americas to Europe to North Africa and beyond, the marijuana legalization movement is gaining unprecedented traction because of successful efforts in Colorado, Washington state and Uruguay, which in December became the first nation to legalize pot, the Associated Press reports. Leaders long weary of the drug war’s violence and futility have been emboldened by changes in U.S. policy, even in the face of opposition from their own conservative populations. Some are eager to try an approach that focuses on public health instead of prohibition, and some see a potentially lucrative industry in cannabis regulation.
“A number of countries are saying, ‘We’ve been curious about this, but we didn’t think we could go this route,'” said Sam Kamin, a University of Denver law professor who helped write Colorado pot regulations. “It’s harder for the U.S. to look at other countries and say, ‘You can’t legalize, you can’t decriminalize,’ because it’s going on here.” The White House is more open to drug war alternatives. President Obama said he considers marijuana less dangerous than alcohol, and says Colorado and Washington legalization experiments should go forward, especially because blacks are arrested for the drug at a greater rate than whites, despite similar levels of use.