Medical marijuana timeline: What a long, strange trip it's been

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With dispensaries on every street corner, legislators having rolled out the first regulatory system for statewide marijuana distribution in the country and activists seriously considering an initiative to legalize pot this November, it might seem like Colorado has always been a marijuana Mecca. But just a few years ago, the state was hardly any more progressive about pot than, say, Arkansas.

The following is a timeline of the major developments in Colorado's weed scene that got us where we are today, complete with photos and links to many past Westword reports. Page through below -- and enjoy the trip.

1919: Colorado makes marijuana illegal, one of the first states to do so. Concern had been growing in the western states because pot was associated with Mexicans moving into the region, an influx that fueled racial tensions.

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Governor William Adams.
1929: After it is reported that a young girl was murdered by her marijuana-smoking stepfather, a man who happens to be Mexican, Colorado governor William Adams signs a bill increasing penalties for sale, possession and production of marijuana.

1937: The Marihuana Tax Act leads to the federal criminalization of marijuana.

1975: The Colorado General Assembly downgrades the penalty for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana, following in the footsteps of similar measures passed in Oregon two years earlier.

1997: Local and national marijuana advocates begin preparing an initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Colorado, patterned after the medical marijuana law passed in California the year before.

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An Atlantic mag illustration of Vikki Buckley.
1998: Coloradans vote on Amendment 19, which would legalize medical marijuana -- but Secretary of State Vicki Buckley refuses to count the votes after determining that proponents collected an insufficient number of signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

2000: After the Colorado Supreme Court rules that Buckley had erred in not counting the votes in 1998, the medical marijuana measure is once again put in front of voters as Amendment 20 -- and passes with 53 percent of the vote.

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