El hecho de que la mayoría de los votantes en Colorado y Washington dijera que sí a la legalización de la marihuana demuestra que la gente rechaza décadas de políticas prohibicionistas y contraproducentes, y aboga por regular, gravar y controlar efectivamente esta planta. Más información, en inglés, está disponible abajo.

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During the US elections this month, voters in Colorado and Washington approved initiatives to legalize the recreational use and commercial production of marijuana. The fact that the majority of voters in Colorado (55%-45% on Amendment 64) and Washington (56%-44% on Initiative 502) said yes to legalizing marijuana, shows that people in this state rejected decades of counterproductive, prohibitionist marijuana policies and cast their votes to regulate, tax and effectively control the substance. Both in the US and elsewhere, commentators and analysts have struggled with questions about what this move will mean on the ground: e.g. how will retailers and growers market and advertise marijuana? How will the federal authorities respond? Will these laws portend the nationwide end to marijuana prohibition in the US? What will be the international implications?

First and foremost, we are confident that legalizing and regulating marijuana will not only help to protect consumers from life-altering penalties and prison sentences; it will also reduce the incentives for violence associated with black markets that are common in US cities and narcotics-producing countries. Profits from marijuana consumption will now benefit legitimate economies, rather than fuel violence in producer or transit countries and lead to the exploitation of vulnerable people. And those who struggle to control their use can seek treatment without fear of arrest or the stigma of dependence on an illegal substance (Read more).

As hinted above, the legal implications of the differences between state and federal law are difficult to predict. Some commentators argue that the federal government could counter state legalization by withholding certain federal funds or by attempting to seize marijuana tax revenues. There is theoretically also the possibility that the Drug Enforcement Administration could be enlisted to police these states. However, most of these steps are very unlikely to materialize, as each contain unique risks and challenges (Read more).

Internationally, the move is likely to give momentum to countries such as Uruguay that are marching toward legalization, to undercut Mexican criminal gangs and to embolden those who call for greater debate about effective policies on currently illegal substances. In little time after the referendums, the leaders of Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica and Belize have already called for a review of anti-drug policies and called on the United Nations to hold a special session by 2015 to examine the "successes and limits" of current strategies against drug trafficking. They also asked the Organization of American States (OAS) to draft a report on the impact of referendums in the US. This will give a further momentum  to a recent a joint statement by Presidents Santos of Colombia, Caldéron of Mexico, and Molina of Guatemala, presented in a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which calls for a rigorous review of international drug policy and requests that the UN "analyze all available options, including regulatory or market measures" (Read more).

Exactly how these measures co-exist with international law is still to be seen. All of us have reported on various flexibilities within the international drug control treaties that are reflected in the range of drug policies around the world. Yet, over the years, we have also run into limits. In the end, we are confident that international law can accommodate the will of the voters in Colorado and Washington.

Finally, we would like to point out the fact that many fascinating studies have preceded the votes, such as a report on the human and financial costs of marijuana arrests in Washington and Oregon; a report by Pat Oglesby, a lawyer who formerly worked for the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation and the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, whch analyzed the potential revenues for these states based on several different taxation scenarios;  the FBI's crime statistics that were released about a week before the vote and revealed that someone is arrested for marijuana every 42 seconds; and lastly, IMCO Alejandro Hope's report about how much revenue drug trafficking cartels would lose by these initiatives, which was followed by a breathtaking New York Times/IHT editorial by Iaon Grillo. These reports were critical in informing the vote and ensuring that an educated electorate was armed with necessary information before going to the polls.

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