Marijuana Policy Highs: The Top Pot Stories Of 2011

It’s been a tumultuous year for marijuana drug policy, from the federal government’s crackdown on medical marijuana in California and the hundreds of shops forced to close, to the riots and lawsuits sparked by the federal action. In the weed haven of San Francisco, three of the best-known medical marijuana dispensaries shut their doors after receiving warning letters from U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag. The state’s oldest dispensary, the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, based in Fairfax, Calif., also closed following federal threats.

The ramped-up enforcement actions came even as a Gallup poll reported 50 percent of Americans favored pot legalization, up from just 36 percent in 2006, and petitions seeking fewer legal restrictions on marijuana garnered more signatures than any others submitted through an online portal at the White House website. Beyond California, marijuana has made significant advances this year.

Delaware became the 16th state to legalize the drug for medical use, while Connecticut reduced possession of a half-ounce or less of pot from a criminal misdemeanor to a noncriminal infraction. And in November, Govs. Lincoln Chafee (I-R.I.) and Chris Gregoire (D-Wash.) called on the Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, which would allow it to be dispensed for medicinal use.

With or without legal changes, Americans haven’t stopped using pot. The FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report revealed marijuana-related arrests were up last year. In 2010, police made 853,838 arrests for pot-related crimes — more than half of drug arrests nationwide, and among the highest numbers of marijuana-related arrests ever reported by the bureau.

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