Head north from Humboldt County and, after about two hours, you're now pretty much able to spark up all the way to the North Pole.
Voters chose on Nov. 4 to legalize marijuana in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia, joining Colorado and Washington in the inevitable swing toward decriminalization.
In Oregon and Alaska, ganja lovers will be allowed to grow, possess and purchase pot under regulatory framework similar to that in Washington and Colorado, which collect taxes on the sale of marijuana, though retail shops in Oregon will not be allowed for a couple years until a permitting process is in place.
By some predictions, Oregon's marijuana will be significantly cheaper than Washington's because of the Beaver State's already burgeoning medical marijuana industry and significantly lower taxes.
Alaska — like Washington — had no dispensary framework, so legalization there will be a bit more complicated as entrepreneurs, municipalities and users seek to establish an industry from scratch.
In Washington, D.C., people will be allowed to possess up to 2 ounces of pot, but retail sales will remain illegal. That could be interesting in a city where the nation's now-Republican-held Congress and Senate work, though Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, called the national marijuana victories "extraordinary" in a Los Angeles Times article.
"Reform of marijuana and criminal justice policies is no longer just a liberal cause but a conservative and bipartisan one as well," Adelman said. "On these issues at least, the nation is at last coming to its senses."
Florida, one of the last bastions of common sense, voted against medical marijuana, though constitutional measures there require 60 percent approval in the state.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that momentum is growing to legalize marijuana in California with a measure on the 2016 ballot. The aim is to align the measure with the presidential election, which proponents expect to "deliver younger voters to the polls who tend to be more supportive of pot." Counting on the youth vote — what could go wrong?
If there is budding support in the golden state, it flies in the face of the national trend, according to a recent Gallup poll. According to a report in the Huffington Post, the poll found legalization support has vaporized over the past year, with the number of Americans supporting it dropping from 58 percent down to 51 percent. But national legalization proponents appear undaunted. "I would take passage of laws in two states and our nation's capitol over some jumpy poll's results any day," Marijuana Policy Project Communications Director Mason Tvert told the Post. "If Gallup finds 49 percent support in 2016 after five more states vote to end marijuana prohibition, I could live with that."
If Tvert's quote left marijuana smokers feeling high and mighty, a recent report in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences might harsh their vibe a bit. As reported in the New York Times, the study found that "chronic" pot smokers (those who toke up at least four times a week) have, on average, less gray matter in their orbital frontal cortex, "a region that is a key node in the brain's reward, motivation, decision-making and addictive behaviors network." Interestingly, however, the study found that region of pot smokers' brains to be better connected than those of non-users, which the study hypothesizes might be the brain's way of compensating for its "under-performing" gray matter. The study — which compared 48 users with 62 non-using control subjects — also noted that the average IQ of the pot smokers was "significantly lower" than that of non-users. That tidbit was "not a finding of the study, but an incidental factor that might be indirectly linked to marijuana use." We're not positive — cough, cough — but it sure sounds like the researchers just called pot smokers dumb.