November 6, 2014
Full Marijuana Legalization in 2 more States and DC
By Mark Wachtler
November 6, 2014. Portland. (ONN) Advocates for the full legalization of marijuana are celebrating after the results of Tuesday’s Election. A majority of voters in all three jurisdictions with the question on the ballot voted to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Even in the one state where the measure failed to pass because it didn’t receive 60 percent of the vote, a majority of voters voted in favor of legalization for medical use. The total number of states where marijuana is legal has jumped to 4, plus the nation’s capitol.
The updated map of states where marijuana is legal for recreational use (shaded purple). Green states have medical or decriminalized marijuana laws. Image courtesy of NORML.
Technically, the District of Columbia isn’t a state. Neither is the US Territory of Guam. But after Tuesday’s votes were counted, Washington DC joined Oregon and Alaska in passing a complete marijuana legalization ballot initiative. That brings the total number of states with full cannabis legalization to four, plus DC. They include Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC. A referendum legalizing medical marijuana was also on the ballot in Guam and Florida. It passed in Guam. But only 58% of voters supported the Florida measure, just shy of the 60% needed to become binding.
Huge Election Victory
One of the most effective marijuana legalization organizations, Just Say Now, described the results of Tuesday’s national election as, ‘huge Election victories!’ The group’s Jon Walker reported, “These three legalization victories are big policy wins for the people living in these places, but more importantly they are huge political wins for the reform movement. They prove the momentum behind marijuana legalization is real and hasn’t ebbed at all since 2012. They show legalization can win even in low turnout midterm elections and in states that favor Republicans.”
He went on to hold up the state of Oregon as the probable model for other states and their legalization efforts. The ballot measure failed there in two previous attempts, but Walker says, “After a loss, the organizations learn from their mistakes, listened to the concerns of voters, and came back with better proposals that the majority will support. What the movement did in Oregon this year, it will likely do in California during the next election.” “It is no longer a matter of if more states will legalize marijuana,” he insists, “only a matter of how and how soon.”
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Percentage-wise, the nation’s capitol was the biggest winner of Tuesday’s full marijuana legalization ballot measures. It’s also the jurisdiction that is least likely to ever see the wishes of the voters and residents enacted into law. Since Washington DC is our nation’s capitol, Congress has long imposed its federal authority over the local government by giving itself final say on any laws made in the city.
With Republicans taking control of both houses of Congress Tuesday, it’s likely they will stop any actual marijuana legalization laws in the capitol, even though the measure passed 65% to 28%, with 7% voting for another option. According to Just Say Now, that is the highest margin of victory for a cannabis legalization measure ever. Another interesting aspect of the Washington DC referendum is that it only makes the possession of pot legal. The sale of marijuana would still be illegal.
In Oregon’s marijuana legalization ballot referendum, the results were almost the exact opposite of a similar measure in 2012. The initiative failed that year as well as in 2010. But on Tuesday, the measure passed 55% to 45% with a small handful of votes still outstanding. Corporate news outlets are crediting the drastic reversal of voter sentiment on the fact that younger voters under 45 outnumbered older voters 65-plus. Just Say Now however, credits the intelligence of organizers and voters saying that past ballot measures were poorly thought-out. While Tuesday’s victorious referendum was written after taking in voter feedback after the first two failed attempts.
The law, which will go into effect January 1, 2016, makes it legal to possess up to one ounce of marijuana in public and up to eight ounces at home. Residents of Oregon would also be allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants in their homes. The Oregon Liquor Control Council is tasked with the responsibility to implement the new law by that date.
As detailed by the Alaska Daily News yesterday, ‘After years of debate – and decades of semi-legal status – Alaskans will finally be able to light up legally. On Tuesday, voters approved Ballot Measure 2, an initiative legalizing recreational marijuana in Alaska, by about 52 percent in favor to 48 percent opposed, with 100 percent of the state’s precincts reporting.’
Like Oregon, Alaska voters had previously rejected a marijuana legalization ballot measure twice, once in 2000 and again in 2004. The account quoted an announcement from Taylor Bickford of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska saying, “Now that the campaign is over, it’s time to establish a robust regulatory system that sets an example for other states. A regulated marijuana market will generate millions of dollars in tax revenue and create good jobs for Alaskans. Law enforcement will be able to spend their time addressing serious crimes instead of enforcing failed marijuana prohibition laws.”
With the successful passage of the measure, it will become law 90 days after the Election results are certified, which is expected to happen by the end of the month. The state of Alaska will then form a marijuana regulatory control board to oversee the implementation. The body will have nine months to draft and finalize rules and regulations governing the sale and use of cannabis.
Florida and Guam
In two more jurisdictions – Florida and Guam – residents voted on medical marijuana ballot referendums. In Guam, the measure passed with 56% of the vote. Ironically, in Florida a similar medical marijuana ballot referendum won with over 57% of the vote. However, a threshold of 60% voting ‘Yes’ was required for the measure to become binding.
According to Just Say Now’s Jon Walker, “The Sunshine state was the only real setback for marijuana reform efforts yesterday, but that was entirely because of Florida’s unusual ballot rules. Amendment 2 actually received the support of 57.6 percent of voters but failed because it didn’t reach the 60 percent threshold amendments need to be adopted. In a sane world, state officials would see the overwhelmingly support for medical marijuana and move quickly to pass a law for it through the Legislature. But sanity seems in short supply in the current political climate.”
For more information on any of the above vote results, visit Just Say Now.