After MPP passed the medical marijuana ballot initiative in Michigan and the marijuana decriminalization ballot initiative in Massachusetts — both on November 4 — I thought the MPP staff might get a little downtime to regroup for the 2009-2010 election cycle. Not so.
In the last four months, the MPP staff and our allies have been working almost nonstop to respond to — and take advantage of — the many opportunities that have been presenting themselves across the country. I've never seen so much evidence of positive change in such a short amount of time ...
1. MARIJUANA THE BIGGEST ISSUE: Two huge surveys of citizen activists across the country — one on Change.gov on December 12, and one on Change.org on January 15 — showed that the number-one issue on people's minds is ending the government's war on marijuana users.
2. BONG HIT SEEN AROUND THE WORLD: On February 1, the world learned that Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps had used marijuana a few months before, demonstrating yet again that using marijuana is compatible with being wildly successful in our society. When Kellogg's dropped its endorsement contract with Phelps — and MPP and other organizations responded by calling for a boycott of Kellogg's — the public's perception of Kellogg's took a nose dive.
3. EL PASO RESPONDS TO MEXICAN VIOLENCE: Responding to the prohibition-caused violence just over the border in Mexico, on January 6 the El Paso City Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for "an honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition of narcotics," which drew the ire of some Texas politicians but also sparked a great deal of positive media coverage nationwide.
4. NATIONAL POLLING HIGHEST EVER: Between January 11 and February 14, three different national polls indicated that either 40%, 41%, or 44% of the American people now support ending marijuana prohibition. This is the highest level of support since marijuana was first prohibited in 1937, with support having risen by 1% a year since 1995.
5. REVOLT IN LATIN AMERICA: On February 12, a commission led by three former presidents from Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico released a long-awaited report that blasted the U.S. drug war and called for the decriminalization of marijuana.
6. ENDING THE DEA's RAIDS IN CALIFORNIA: On February 25, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the DEA would no longer be raiding medical marijuana clinics in California and the 12 other states where medical marijuana is legal.
7. MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILLS MOVING: MPP's medical marijuana bills are moving through the Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York Legislatures, and the Drug Policy Alliance's similar legislation is moving in New Jersey. We have a real chance of making medical marijuana legal in four of these six states this year and — in the meantime — it's very possible that Montana and Rhode Island will expand their existing medical marijuana laws, too.
8. BROADER MARIJUANA BILLS MOVING: California shook the nation when a bill to tax and regulate marijuana was introduced on February 23. And even before that happened, the Hawaii, Montana, Vermont, and Washington Legislatures had already begun considering bills to decriminalize marijuana.
9. MPP DOMINATING ON YOUTUBE: As of today, MPP's channel on YouTube.com is the 10th most subscribed of all nonprofit channels, and MPP's videos are consistently in the top 10 most-viewed of all nonprofit videos in any given week. (And our 65,000 friends on MySpace.com places MPP among the top 10 most popular nonprofit organizations there, too.)
10. ONGOING MEDIA EXPLOSION: According to the weekly reports we get from Google, MPP has been getting its message into the news in the last month at 10 times the volume of previous months. And four different national TV specials are tentatively scheduled to look at marijuana over just a two-month span: CNBC looked at the marijuana industry in northern California on January 22, NBC's "Dateline" covered the Rachel Hoffman tragedy in Florida on January 23, ABC's "20/20" with John Stossel will be looking at medical marijuana on March 13, and MSNBC with Al Roker will be looking at the multi-billion-dollar marijuana industry on March 15.