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Where America landed on marijuana

Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY

Most of Florida’s voters voted in favor of legalizing medical marijuana, but Amendment 2 still came 2% percent shy of the votes needed to pass. Supporters vow to keep fighting. VPC

While Florida voters narrowly rejected a plan to legalize medical marijuana, voters in Washington, D.C., Oregon, and Alaska approved recreational pot posession and use by adults

And in Guam, voters legalized medical marijuana use, according to initial returns showing Proposal 14A passing with more than half of the vote.

Supporters say the legalization wins indicate voters think America’s pot prohibition is a failure, especially since non-presidential elections tend to draw an older, more conservative electorate. Twenty-three states and the nation’s capital already permit medical marijuana. Tuesday’s vote means Washington, D.C., Alaska and Oregon join Colorado and Washington in allowing adults to posses and consume marijuana just for fun.

Florida’s medical marijuana initiative, Amendment 2, received more than 50% of the vote, but failed to reach the 60% needed to pass.

Alaska’s measure is similar to Colorado’s, and Oregon’s is modeled on Washington state’s. Washington, D.C.’s initiative legalizes marijuana possession but doesn’t establish a taxation system because voters aren’t allowed to directly implement taxes themselves.

“Wins in Alaska and Oregon will provide a boost to efforts in other states because they will demonstrate the benefits of regulating and taxing marijuana. Losses won’t really have much impact. After all, an initiative to make marijuana legal failed in Colorado in 2006,” said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project.

“Some states will end marijuana prohibition more quickly than others, just as some states ended alcohol prohibition more quickly than others. But they all did in the end, and now just about everybody recognizes that it was a good idea,” he said.

Critics say legalizing pot will lead to increased youth use, and they fear overdoses from popular marijuana-infused foods known as “edibles.”

“What we’ve seen is that the more people hear details about legalization, whether it is details of specific laws or details of experiences in Colorado or Washington, they are turned off from legalization,” said Kevin Sabet, director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida.

“Legalization in theory, it seems, fares much better than legalization in practice,” he said. “We’re so far from national legalization at this point, and the recent and sudden success of legalization advocates two years ago has started a counter movement. This discussion is far from over.”

• With more than 65% of votes counted, Oregon’s Measure 91 had strong support from voters, with well more than half of them in support.

• Initial tallies show’s Alaska’s Ballot Measure 2, passing, surprising some supporters who thought they might see a narrow loss.

• Voters in Washington, D.C., overwhelmingly approved Initiative 71, but it won’t apply on the large sections of federal land in the district, and Congress could always step in.

The strong support in Washington, D.C., heartened legalization supporters: “With marijuana legal in the federal government’s backyard, it’s going to be increasingly difficult for national politicians to continue ignoring the growing majority of voters who want to end prohibition. I’ve been saying for a while that 2016 presidential candidates need to start courting the cannabis constituency, and now the road to the White House quite literally travels through legal marijuana territory,” said Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority.

Article source USA Today

Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C. legalize marijuana

By Dan Merica, CNN
updated 2:39 PM EST, Wed November 5, 2014

Washington (CNN) — Voters in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C. have voted to approve sweeping pro-marijuana legalization, according to a CNN projections.

The three wins have pro-legalization activists enthused and many are already looking towards 2016, when ballot initiatives in states such as California, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada and Arizona are likely to be put to voters.

In Oregon, the law legalizes personal possession, manufacture and sale of marijuana for people 21 years of age and older. Mimicking similar plans in Washington State and Colorado, the Oregon law will also create a commercial regulatory system for the production, distribution and sale of marijuana.

Alaska’s law is similar to Oregon and would tax and regulate the production, sale and use of marijuana, making the use legal for people over 21 years old

Washington, D.C.’s proposal, while scaled back compared to the others, allows for a person over 21 years old to posses up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use and grow up to six cannabis plants in their home. It also allows people to transfer up to one ounce of marijuana to another person, but not sell it.

Photos: History of marijuana in AmericaPhotos: History of marijuana in America

The issue is not fully resolved for the District of Columbia, however. Because of its unique status as a district, not a state, Congress has the authority to overrule D.C. laws and some lawmakers have signaled that they would likely work to overrule the popular vote.

Pro-marijuana activists heralded the victories as “huge” on Tuesday.

‘I like weed, and I’m a good person’: Pot smokers fight stereotypes

“It’s always an uphill battle to win a marijuana legalization initiative in a year like this, when young people are so much less likely to vote, which makes today’s victory all the sweeter,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance said about Oregon. “The pace of reform is accelerating, other states are sure to follow, and even Congress is poised to wake from its slumber.”

Wins in Washington, D.C. also have activists hoping for federal recognition.

“With marijuana legal in the federal government’s backyard,” said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, “it’s going to be increasingly difficult for national politicians to continue ignoring the growing majority of voters who want to end prohibition.”

Not all news was positive, however, for marijuana activists on Tuesday, however.

Voters in Florida gave the thumbs down to medical marijuana in the the Sunshine State earlier in the night, according to a CNN projection.

The measure – which is one of many on ballots in 2014 – would have legalized the use of medical marijuana in Florida and would have tasked the state’s Department of Health with regulating it.

Because the measure would have altered Florida’s constitution, supporters needed 60% for the question to pass. Only 57% of voters voted yes, compared to 43% who voted no with 91% of vote reporting.

Marijuana has been a surging issue of late.

In 2013, according to Gallup, more Americans supported legalization than those who opposed it. Just 14 years earlier, those who opposed it had over a 2-to-1 advantage. A 2014 Pew Research poll found that 54% of Americans supported making marijuana legal.

Ever since voters in Colorado and Washington allowed the sale of legalized marijuana in 2014 (after voters decided to legalize years before), the push for more marijuana legalization has become a popular nationwide effort.

The laws in Oregon and Alaska are similar to what Colorado and Washington State passed and would allow recreational sale and taxation of the drug. Both votes are expected to be close, with polls mixed on the results.

Article source CNN

Voters give nod to legal marijuana in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C.



Melvin Clay of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign holds a sign urging voters to legalize marijuana, at the Eastern Market polling station in Washington November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Melvin Clay of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign holds a sign urging voters to legalize marijuana, at the Eastern Market polling station in Washington November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

PORTLAND, Ore., Nov 5 (Reuters) – Residents of Oregon, Alaska, and the U.S. capital voted to legalize marijuana on Tuesday, in key victories that could fuel the legalization movement as cannabis usage is increasingly recognized by the American mainstream.

The Oregon and Alaska measures would legalize recreational pot use and usher in a network of retail pot shops similar to those operating in Washington state and Colorado, which in 2012 voted to become the first U.S. states to allow marijuana use for fun.

A less far-reaching proposal in the District of Columbia to allow marijuana possession but not retail sales won nearly 65 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting, unofficial results showed.

The referendums come amid shifts in American opinions on marijuana in recent years that have energized efforts to legalize cannabis, a drug that remains illegal under federal law even as Colorado and Washington state have been given the go-ahead to experiment with legalization.

“In 2016 we’re going to push the ball forward in several states until we end prohibition,” Leland Berger, a Portland attorney who helped write the new law, told Reuters outside a packed Portland nightclub where advocates declared victory amid pot-centric revelry.

Advocates have portrayed the District of Columbia measure as a civil rights issue, saying studies have shown that African Americans are disproportionately more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than are people of other races.

The D.C. measure had been strongly favored to pass but could still be halted during a review by the U.S. Congress, which has constitutional oversight over the capital. The measure would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to two ounces (57 grams) of cannabis and grow up to six plants.


The Oregon law, which drew 54 percent support in preliminary returns, takes effect in July 2015 and stores could open the following year.

The Alaska measure was leading by about 52-48 percent with nearly 97 percent of precincts reporting preliminary results late on Tuesday, and groups for and against the initiative said it had passed.

If given official approval, a regulatory body would have nine months to write regulations after the election is certified and the measure becomes law, with stores likely coming at some point in 2016.

Opponents of legal weed in Oregon say they would take their fight to the Oregon legislature, pushing for stricter laws designed to limit access to pot by children, among other efforts.

Kevin Sabet, co-founder of anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said his group would redouble its efforts to build a broader coalition to beat back better-funded pro-cannabis groups ahead of what is expected to be an expanded fight in 2016.

“Tonight is going to inspire us to do better and to try harder and go after the donors we have to go after in order to level the playing field,” Sabet said. “The more people that hear about legalization, the more people are uncomfortable with it. For us it’s about getting our message out.”

Meanwhile, a proposed constitutional amendment to make Florida the 24th state and the first in the South to allow medical marijuana was defeated after falling short of the 60 percent support needed to pass, according to groups both for and against the measure.

In Maine, a proposal to legalize the possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana failed in Lewiston and passed in South Portland, advocacy groups said. In Guam, unofficial results indicated it became the first U.S. territory to approve medical marijuana, an election official there said.

Article source Toronto Sun


Oregon and Alaska voters approve legalise recreational marijuana laws

Supporters hail result as boost to campaigns in other states from California to Massachusetts

Measure 91 legalize it
Measure 91 had significant political backing, including from Oregon senator, Jeff Merkley, the first US senator to come out publicly in support of legalisation. Photograph: Steve DiPaola/Reuters

Oregon and Alaska have become the latest US states to legalise recreational marijuana in ballots hailed by supporters as evidence that a national change of policy is underway.

Voters in both states approved laws which will permit residents over 21 to grow their own marijuana and establish a legal retail trade.

Anthony Johnson, the chief sponsor of Oregon’s Measure 91, compared the victory for the legal sale and use of cannabis to the recent end of the state’s ban on gay marriage, saying that voters had struck a blow for freedom and equality.

“We have ended a painful, discriminatory, harmful policy,” he said.

In Oregon, with 87% of the ballot counted, support for Measure 91 had a decisive lead with 54.8% of votes. In Alaska, the pro-legalisation campaign had 52% of the vote with all precincts reporting but absentee ballots still to be counted.

There were victories for more liberal marijuana laws elsewhere too. In Washington DC, voters approved possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use – although that move could be blocked by the US Congress, which holds significant legislative authority over the city.

Cannabis US midterm election
In Washington DC, voters approved possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, although that move could be blocked by the US Congress. Photograph: Gary Cameron/Reuters

The Pacific island of Guam became the first US territory to legalise medical marijuana, but a vote on the same issue in Florida fell just short of the 60% threshold that was required for it to pass.

The results in Oregon and Alaska, which followed the legalisation of recreational marijuana in neighbouring Washington state and Colorado two years ago, were cheered by national campaigns as evidence of a gathering movement to challenge federal laws banning the drug.

Earl Blumenauer, a member of the US Congress whose district includes part of Portland, told a victory party that the momentum from Oregon would spread across the country.

“You are going to change national policy,” he said. “The marijuana legalisation train has left the station.”

Measure 91 had significant political backing from other politicians, including from Oregon senator, Jeff Merkley, the first US senator to come out publicly in support of legalisation.

Funding for the campaign, at about $7.5m, heavily outweighed money to the opposition, which raised less than $180,000. One of the major supporters was billionaire George Soros’s Drug Policy Alliance, which spent nearly $800,000 to promote the vote in favour.

Jill Harris, the alliance’s director of strategic initiatives and point person on Measure 91, said the Oregon vote was further evidence of a growing national support “for rescinding prohibition of marijuana and for drug policy reform in general”.

“It’s pretty clear the American people support marijuana legalisation by decent margins and there’s been a shift toward reform toward less punitive more health based attitudes to drugs in general and certainly with respect to marijuana,” she said.

Harris said that for the measure to pass in a non-presidential election year, when the turnout of younger voters is lower, indicates that initiatives to legalise marijuana in other states in 2016 should do well.

“Looking ahead where there’s going to be legalisation measures on the ballot in places like California, Massachusetts, and potentially Nevada, Arizona and Maine, I think we’ll be looking at a presidential year electorate and those initiatives will do very well. This result is just building momentum toward that,” she said.

Legalisation in Oregon, which will come into force in July 2015, goes further than in neighbouring Washington state by permitting users over the age of 21 to grow their own cannabis and keep up to four mature marijuana plants. Oregonians will also be able to possess much larger quantities than in Washington state or Colorado, which permit up to one ounce of cannabis. Oregon will allow eight ounces.

Alaska will permit residents to grow up to six cannabis plants and allow them to carry up to one ounce.

Oregon was the first state to decriminalise possession of small amounts of marijuana in 1973 and legalised medical marijuana 25 years later. But two years ago voters spurned a chance to legalise recreational use when confronted with what was widely criticised as a poorly written and overly broad law. This year, campaigners proposed a ballot measure that required much tighter regulation and put oversight in the hands of the Oregon liquor control commission.

Alaska’s supreme court ruled in 1975 that the state constitution’s privacy protections allowed people to possess and use small amounts of cannabis in their homes but the question of how they could obtain the drug was not resolved. Campaigners for the new law said it removed the issue.

marijuana cannabis
Legalisation in Oregon will permit users over the age of 21 to grow their own cannabis and keep up to four mature marijuana plants. Photograph: Jason Redmond/Reuters

Supporters of legalisation promoted it as a means of combating drug cartels and relieve the police of time-wasting arrests for possession of small amounts of the drug. They also say it will generate much-needed tax revenues to be divided between schools, law enforcement and mental health and addiction treatment programmes.

But it has met with resistance in some parts of Oregon over fears of drug tourism. Several town councils have passed additional tax levies on marijuana to discourage its sale in their municipalities. However, the ballot measure would appear to override the ability of local authorities to tax cannabis by giving that power solely to the state.

Opponents raised a number of issues, from the “normalisation” of the drug encouraging its use by young people to questions about how the police would be able to determine if a person was driving while stoned.

Among the most vocal opponents of Measure 91 was the Clatsop county district attorney, Josh Marquis, who has described the amount of marijuana individuals will be allowed to possess as “staggering”. He said some of it would inevitably end up being sold or given to underage users because there is no way to control its distribution.

Other critics of the form of the legislation, if not its intent, warn that it could have unintended consequences if it is not amended by the state legislature.

Mark Kleiman, a UCLA professor and chief consultant to Washington state on its marijuana laws, said that Measure 91 has set the tax rate too low at $35 an ounce, which would result in the drug being underpriced and increase use by minors and people with a chronic use problem.

Article source The Guardian



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