Lee Ellis at The Believer:
Since 1996, Californians with the right doctors’ notes have had legal clearance to grow and possess pot. That year, Proposition 215, a voter initiative granting limited immunity from prosecution to “seriously ill” residents whose health conditions might be improved by the use of the drug, passed on a statewide ballot. In 2003, Senate Bill 420 upheld the law, and added a handy medical marijuana ID card program (to date, nearly seventy-two thousand cards have been issued). Neither the proposition nor the senate bill superseded federal law, however; as such, raids on growers and dispensaries carried out by federal agents were frequent from 1996 until March 2009, when Attorney General Eric Holder announced that marijuana grows and storefronts complying with state law would not be a priority for the Obama administration.
In the wake of the proposition, twenty states and the District of Columbia passed medical marijuana legislation. Colorado and Washington recently went a step further by permitting recreational use. While traditionally conservative states have been slow to relax harsh punishments for possession (in Kansas, holding any amount of marijuana—even a single gram—can earn the offender up to a year in prison), it’s clear that blue America is trending toward legalization.