My Road Trip to Help Legalize Marijuana in the USA

Every winter, I take a road trip across the USA, giving talks along the way. This year’s trip is a big one: 25 cities in 30 days, which I kicked off with a full week dedicated to drug policy reform and helping to legalize marijuana.

Working the halls of Congress
Working the halls of Congress

I have embraced this cause for many years. I’ve been a board member of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, since 2003. In 2012, I was a co-sponsor, major funder, and leading spokesperson for I-502, an initiative that legalized, taxed, and regulated the recreational use of marijuana for adults in Washington State. On election day that year, Washington and Colorado became the first jurisdictions in the world to attempt to turn a thriving marijuana black market into a highly taxed and regulated legal market. Many others had decriminalized marijuana, but it was a historic first to entirely legalize it (to honestly sort out the complicated “back-end” issues of wholesaling and distribution).

When I talk to audiences about marijuana, I always say, “I’m not pro-pot. I’m anti-prohibition, anti-racial discrimination, and pro-civil liberties.” And I always remind my audiences that marijuana is a drug, it can be dangerous, and it can be abused. But we now know, after a five-year track record in WA and CO, that when you legalize smartly, adult use stays essentially the same, teen use does not go up, crime does not go up, and DUIs do not go up. What does go up are protections of our civil liberties — and tax revenue. Marijuana was once a thriving illegal market in Washington State (rivaling apples in sales) that empowered and enriched organized crime. Now, it’s part of the legal market – and, with $1.3 billion in yearly sales, it’s a big part. Marijuana generated $319 million in revenue for our state last year alone. And we’re no longer arresting about 8,000 (mostly poor and black) people each year.

Because I’m so proud of what we’ve done for social justice, civil liberties, and public safety in our state, each election cycle I dedicate a week or so of my time to share this information with other states. In 2014, it was Oregon (we won). In 2016, it was Massachusetts and Maine (we won). And in 2018, I’m preaching the gospel of legalization in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Vermont.

I started off the week in Washington DC, working the halls of Congress with lobbyists from NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project (and marveling at how omnipresent NRA lobbyists were). We dropped in on several Representatives and met Senators in the hallways, always sharing our experience, and we hosted briefings for Congressional aides in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. There’s actually a bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus now — with scores of lawmakers on board. We’re making serious progress at the federal level.

Senate briefing
Photo: Natalie Fertig

House of Representatives briefing

And this was a first: An interview I did under the U.S. Capitol Rotunda was turned into an animated clip.

Travel Guru Rick Steves' guide to marijuana: Europe vs. the U.S.

America's leading authority on European travel gives us his personal take on what Americans should & shouldn't learn from Europe when it comes to weed.

Posted by Circa on Monday, February 19, 2018

Video: Natalie Fertig, Circa.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about my stops in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Vermont.

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