A group of nine former heads of the Drug Enforcement Administration urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to publicly oppose the measures, but the DOJ and the White House remained silent.
Instead, Kevin Sabet, a former White House drug policy adviser, served as a counterpoint to the legalization campaigns. The ills of prohibition — the racial disparities in who gets busted, the lifelong consequences of a conviction for landing jobs or student loans — could be solved without legalization, which would increase the availability of marijuana for teens who are most susceptible to becoming addicted, he contended.
Yet such arguments found little support.
‘‘When you hammer away at that message, saying we can save education and make better use of police resources and get rid of cartels, and there’s nothing to oppose that, that sounds sensible to people who aren’t hearing the other side,’’ Sabet says.
On Nov. 6, I-502 passed with nearly 56 percent. Colorado’s Amendment 64, which allows home-growing and does not include a drunken driving standard, passed with 55 percent.
Oregon’s Measure 80 ultimately failed. But even with little campaigning behind it, that proposal got nearly 47 percent of the vote.
As they await word about whether the Justice Department will try to block the measures from taking effect, national drug-law reform groups are salivating over their chances in 2014 and 2016.
California? Nevada? Massachusetts?
‘‘Something is happening, and it’s not just happening in Washington and Colorado,’’ says Andy Ko, who leads the Campaign for a New Drug Policy at Open Society Foundations. ‘‘Marijuana reform is going to happen in this country as older voters fade away and younger voters show up. Legislators see this as something safe to legislate around.
‘‘They see the writing on the wall.’’
Johnson can be reached at https://twitter.com/GeneAPseattle
Kristen Wyatt contributed from Denver