Source: By Tony Dokoupil NBC News December 25 2014

Marijuana has never had a year like 2014.

The first aboveboard just-for-fun cannabis markets rose in Colorado and Washington. Voters in Oregon and Alaska passed ballot initiatives to create the same. And a consistent majority of Americans said they support plans to legalize the drug nationwide, according to polls by NBC News and others.

 Yet 2014 also brought the first formidable anti-marijuana message in ages. The men and women of Smart Approaches on Marijuana, or Project SAM, might be the most potent voice of prohibition since Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” tour three decades ago.

The result was a year of fierce cross currents.

The anti-drug crowd fought to protect people from marijuana, believing that sobriety is the ideal and indulgence dangerous. The reform side, meanwhile, fought to protect marijuana users from legal harm, believing that insobriety is normal and indulgence should not be a crime.

Here are five marijuana storylines that stood out amid all the smoke:

1. The First Legal Sales in Colorado and Washington

Last New Year’s Day, Colorado debuted the sale of recreational pot to adults. In Washington state, at 2 a.m. on a Monday in July, a small number of retail shop owners—after receiving an electronic copy of a license to sell just-for-fun cannabis—followed Colorado into the green future.

In both states, the skies remained up, the ground remained down, and sales went off without any of the crime or public debauchery some critics feared. Advocates declared victory.

 “Colorado has shown the world that cannabis can be safely bought and sold,” said Mike Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a powerful lobby for the Mile High state’s newest industry. “Colorado’s economy boomed, with thousands of new jobs,” he continued, “and we also saw evidence of decreases in violent crime, traffic fatalities and teen marijuana use.”
 Pot retail sales to begin in Washington state

But hold on, critics said.

As Elliot himself is quick to point out, many problems remain. The black market is still strong in some parts of Denver, for example, and on the street the authorities can’t tell the difference between a legally grown piece of pot and an illegal one. A bud is just a bud.

As new users flocked to powerful pot-infused “edibles,” meanwhile, some found themselves dangerously zonked. “High” driving also emerged as a concern, and is still spurring furious debate over the appropriate limit for marijuana in the bloodstream.

In Washington state, it was much of the same, with no instant horrors, but no undisputed victories either. When Washington started to build its new economy, it hired BOTEC, a consulting firm run by Mark Kleiman, a UCLA professor of public policy.

 Earlier this year, he told NBC News that Washington and Colorado’s alcohol-style models are far from ideal. In fact, he said, the supposed progress reminded him of an old joke about a man who jumps from the Empire State building.

“How’s it going?” someone yells as the man passes the 42nd floor. “So far, so good!”

2. The Savvy, Well-Funded Campaigns in Oregon, Alaska, and Nationwide

“I’ve slept like six hours in the last week and a half, man,” Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told NBC in the run up to the Alaska vote.

MPP, a national lobby based in Washington, D.C., poured more than $700,000—more than 80 percent of the total fundraising—into Alaska’s Yes on Ballot Measure 2 campaign, the local effort to treat marijuana like alcohol.

It won.

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