By Dan Bernath

Who knows what drives prohibitionists to block sensible marijuana policy reform with such fervor?

If you're reading this, then you've got your own theories. Maybe it's culture war residue from paranoid Nixonians who believed aversion to war was marijuana's most dangerous side effect. Maybe it's the net effect of 70 years of wild-eyed, race-tinged anti-marijuana propaganda. Maybe it's all those drug warriors who depend on the marijuana war for their livelihoods.

It doesn't really matter, because the solution is the same: marijuana policy reform, ultimately at the federal level.

April 20 is as good a day as any to step back and assess our progress so far.

The most egregious element of the federal government's war on marijuana users – criminalizing seriously ill patients who rely on marijuana as part of the treatment regimen they developed with their doctors – is crumbling fast.

Through public education, popular state ballot initiatives shepherded by tireless advocates, and partnerships between advocacy groups and compassionate, sensible lawmakers at every level, nearly a quarter of this nation's states now protect a patient's right to medical marijuana.

More states are adopting medical marijuana laws every year as evidence of the drug's safety and efficacy grows. Just last month, New Mexico became the 12th state to establish medical marijuana laws, and similar legislation is getting serious consideration in Minnesota and Illinois as well.

As a result, pressure on federal legislators to reconcile cruel, outdated roadblocks to patients' access to medical marijuana builds.

Prohibitionists' willingness to sacrifice the sickest and most vulnerable among us simply to gain an advantage in their war against marijuana users only reveals the cynicism that impedes the rational, civil policy discussion marijuana reform deserves.

Opponents of marijuana policy reform, when making the ridiculous claim that marijuana is far more dangerous today than in the past, are fond of saying, "This is not your father's marijuana."

Well, these are not your father's marijuana reformers. Advocates for sensible, effective marijuana policy are pragmatic, organized, dynamic, and energetic. They include medical professionals, public policy experts, economists, politicians, civil rights and privacy advocates, taxpayer watchdogs, clergy members, liberals, conservatives, and anyone else concerned about the ever-growing reach of the federal government into the private lives of responsible Americans.

And their ranks are growing. For many, such as former U.S. Congressman Bob Barr, the turning point will come over concern about the federal government's increasing encroachment into the affairs of private citizens and local governments. Once a strong opponent of medical marijuana, Barr recently signed on as a lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project to work with his former colleagues to protect states' right to determine their own policies on medical marijuana.

Marijuana reform is inevitable as long as we stay informed and stay active. Activists can't do it alone. We need you.

Dan Bernath is the Marijuana Policy Project’s assistant director of communications, Email him at