This past U.S. election resulted in many victories–from a ceiling-breaking number of women in Congress to the first Buddhist Asian-American woman elected to the senate and the first Hindu elected to the House of Representatives. In addition, Tammy Duckworth became the first disabled woman to be elected to the House. And she’s from Thailand! This is paradigm-shifting news.
As women, religious minorities, and disabled people were gaining ground, so were sexual minorities. Along with the states of Maine and Maryland, Washington state voters legalised gay marriage on election day, 6 November, making it the ninth state to do so (or the seventh state to do so, in a tie with Maine and Maryland, if we forget about time zones and mail-in ballots). In the map below, Washington is the state in the northwestern corner of the United States, just south of British Columbia, Canada, along the fabled Salish Sea.
But Washington voters also prevailed in the fight to legalize cannabis use for recreational purposes. While U.S federal law still treats cannabis use as a grievous crime, Washington state, along with Colorado, has decided that a new approach to drug reform is necessary, and this means anybody 21 years of age or older can possess an ounce of cannabis and smoke it openly on the street, just as they would a cigarette.
As of the 2012 U.S. presidential election, Washington state and Seattle are now on par with the Netherlands and Amsterdam as one of the most liberal, socially progressive jurisdictions in the world. Except for the Netherlands, Washington state is now the only place in the world where both gay marriage and cannabis are legal. Yet you do not hear much about Washington state in the news. It is often confused with Washington, D.C. Do not let that fool you–Americans have a new pioneer in progressive social experiments, and it comes from the Pacific Northwest.
Here is a guide to the use of cannabis and same-sex marriage solemnisation in Washington, from the Seattle alternative weekly The Stranger: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/legalized-gay-marriage-is-complicated/Content?oid=15280033