When Colorado citizens voted to legalize marijuana in 2012, people said it was the first time that a state legalized the drug. But that's not entirely true.
In the late 1960's, Michigan authorities arrested John Sinclair, a marijuana advocate and renowned figure in the state's counterculture community. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for cannabis possession. However, in December 1971, the Michigan Supreme Court overturned his conviction after a series of appeals and lengthy protests that even included John Lennon and Yoko Ono appearing at the Michigan courthouse to call for his release. The Michigan Supreme Court said the state's drug laws were wrong because it said that marijuana was as dangerous as heroin.
Three months after freeing Sinclair, the Michigan Supreme Court then said that the entire state's drug laws were unconstitutional and therefore threw them out. Since the state didn't have any drug laws in place after the court's decision, the state effectively had legalized marijuana. It would take 22 days before the state instituted new drug laws, and in that time people threw public gatherings where people used cannabis without being arrested.
Even after the state implemented the new laws, the courts still released over 100 prisoners who had been convicted of marijuana possession.
Sinclair and his wife attempted to get a ballot initiative off the ground later in 1972 to officially legalize marijuana, but the effort didn't get enough signatures. Now, 46 years later, a new initiative will arrive on Michigan ballots to legalize recreational cannabis, following up on all the activism that began in the early 1970's.
(h/t Lansing State Journal)