By RACHEL LA CORTE Associated Press Writer
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Washington is one of four states where measures to legalize and regulate marijuana have been introduced, and about two dozen other states are considering bills ranging from medical marijuana to decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the herb.
"In terms of state legislatures, this is far and away the most active year that we've ever seen," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, which supports reforming marijuana laws.
Nadelmann said that while legalization efforts are not likely to get much traction in state capitals anytime soon, the fact that there is such an increase of activity "is elevating the level of public discourse on this issue and legitimizing it."
"I would say that we are close to the tipping point," he said. "At this point they are still seen as symbolic bills to get the conversation going, but at least the conversation can be a serious one."
Opponents of relaxing marijuana laws aren't happy with any conversation on the topic, other than keeping the drug illegal.
"There's no upside to it in any manner other than for those people who want to smoke pot," said Travis Kuykendall, head of the West Texas High Intensity Drug-Trafficking Area office in El Paso, Texas. "There's nothing for society in it, there's nothing good for the country in it, there's nothing for the good of the economy in it."