Is Legal Marijuana on the Horizon?

Published February 1, 2002

1 Europe Goes to Pot: Great Britain, EU Abandon Marijuana Prohibition

UK officials branded marijuana prohibition an endangered species in 2001, announcing in October that police would no longer arrest individuals for marijuana possession, and that marijuana would be federally reclassified as a “soft” drug. Britain’s new policy, expected to be formalized by Spring 2002, is similar to those of its European Union neighbors, most of whom no longer criminalize the use of marijuana or other drugs.

2 Zogby Poll Finds 61% of Americans Oppose Pot Prohibition

Americans’ opposition to the government’s war on marijuana rose significantly in 2001, according to a national Zogby poll of 1,024 likely voters commissioned by the NORML Foundation.

Sixty-one percent of respondents said they opposed arresting and jailing nonviolent marijuana smokers in light of the increased threat of terrorism since September 11. In addition, two-thirds (67 percent) said they opposed the use of federal law enforcement agencies to close dispensaries that distribute medicinal marijuana in states that have legalized its use.

3 Canada Legalizes Medical Marijuana

Canada became the first country in the world to sanction the use and cultivation of medical marijuana by qualified individuals, enacting nationwide regulations in August that enable patients and their caregivers to legally grow and possess medicinal cannabis.

Ironically, Canada’s policy change came mere months after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed federal provisions in the Controlled Substances Act defining marijuana as having “no currently accepted medical use.”

4 Supreme Court Rules on Medical Pot Distribution

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May that patient support groups who grow and supply medical marijuana for the seriously ill are not exempt from federal law by the defense of “medical necessity.” Contrary to popular interpretation, the ruling did not strike down or invalidate state laws legalizing the medical use of marijuana by individual patients—a separate issue that was not before the Court.

5 Nevada Reduces Nation’s Toughest Pot Laws to a Fine-Only Offense

Nevada’s marijuana laws received a long-overdue overhaul in 2001, as legislators reduced marijuana possession from a four-year felony to a fine-only offense and enacted legislation legalizing marijuana’s medical use. The legislature was the first in 24 years (and twelfth overall) to eliminate jail time and criminal records for minor marijuana offenders, and the ninth state since 1996 to legalize the use of medical cannabis under a doctor’s supervision.

6 Pot Arrests For Year 2000 Hit All Time High

Former President Bill Clinton’s parting shot to the marijuana community was one for the record books.

According to the FBI’s Year 2000 Uniform Crime Report, police arrested an estimated 734,498 persons for marijuana violations in 2000, the final year of the Clinton regime. The total is the highest ever recorded by the FBI, and represents just under half of all drug arrests recorded so far this millennium.

7 DEA Wages War on California’s Medical Pot Clubs

In a major federal crackdown on California’s medical marijuana providers, law enforcement officials in fall 2000 raided a pair of state medical marijuana dispensaries: the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center in West Hollywood and the California Medical Research Center in Cool.

8 New Mexico Governor Calls for Pot Legalization at NORML Conference

Challenging the myth that marijuana-law reform is the “third rail” of politics, two-time Republican Governor Gary Johnson called for marijuana’s legalization at NORML’s annual conference in Washington, DC. “I’m for marijuana legalization,” he told attendees during NORML’s luncheon address, broadcast live on C-SPAN. “I think that decriminalization turns it back on half of the problem.”

9 Bipartisan Bill to Legalize Medical Pot Introduced in Congress

For the first time in nearly 20 years, politicians from both sides of the aisle—Reps. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) and Ron Paul (R-Texas)—joined forces to introduce legislation in Congress to legalize medical marijuana. Their bill, H.R. 2592 (the “States’ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act”), was referred in mid-July to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health, which has yet to act on the measure.

10 DEA Okays State-Sponsored Medical Marijuana Trials

Ending nearly two decades of de facto prohibition on medical marijuana research, the Drug Enforcement Administration in November approved three state-sponsored patient trials on the therapeutic potential of smoked marijuana. The trials will begin early this year at the University of California’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR). Eight other FDA-approved protocols remain pending before the DEA.

Allen St. Pierre is executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Contact NORML at