The filming crew of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) traveled to California and attended the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in LA to find out what are the latest development of the battle for legal marijuana in the US. We interviewed activists from several organizations, asked questions about the chances of state level ballot initiatives, we even saw how people will use cannabis in the 21st Century. 

Although the Federal government of the Unites States of America lists marijuana as a Schedule I substance – that have high potential for abuse and no recognized medical use – there are recently 16 states that ignore the federal ban and made marijuana available as a medicine. There is a wide range of regulatory models from unregulated distribution in some parts of California to a centralized state control in the state of Colorado. The medical models are paving the way to the next level of regulation - in which all adults who would like to enhance their wellnes will have legal access to marijuana for personal use.

Last year almost half of Californians voted yes on Proposition 19, a ballot aiming to legalize the use of marijuana for adults. According to Gallup’s poll, this year is the first in the US history when more Americans support the legal regulation of cannabis than those who prefer the current prohibition. After so many decades, there is a significant chance now to end the war on drugs. It seems the US is slowly moving towards legal regulation. I said, slowly, because the resistance of the old prohibition regime is very strong: after all, this is a huge business for the prison-industrial complex. California, for example, is spending 10 percent of its general fund on prisons and 7 percent on higher education. And it is not only the profit motive: the war on drugs is used for social control of poor and colored communities, many say it is the New Jim Crow.

The federal government is still fiercly opposing the idea of legalization, Obama is a disappointment for many drug policy reform activists who feel betrayed by him now when the federal attorneys declared a new war on medical marijuana dispensaries. Most activists we interviewed are optimistic after all: they say it is only the question of time before Americans will vote yes in one of the next ballots and legalize the use of marijuana for adults. In two states, Washington and Colorado, activists have managed to gather signatures well in excess of what is necessary to qualify to get an initiative on the ballot. Will legalizers win the next battle? We don’t know – but our filming crew will follow up this story!

Keep up-to-date with drug policy developments by subscribing to the IDPC Monthly Alert