Alaska is a conservative, red state, but with a libertarian, live-and-let-live hue and a history of openness toward marijuana.
In order to get marijuana legalization on the ballot in Alaska this year, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana in Alaska submitted more than 45,000 signatures to election officials on January 8. With only 30,000 verified signatures necessary to put their initiative on the ballot, Alaska voters will probably have the opportunity to legalize marijuana — or choose to continue prohibition — on August 19 during the primary election.
The ballot measure, titled “An Act to tax and regulate the production, sale, and use of marijuana,” would:
- Make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and up to six plants (three flowering) legal for adults 21 years of age or older, but maintain restrictions on public consumption and allow employers to prohibit marijuana use by employees.
- Legalize the manufacture, sale, and possession of marijuana accessories; and legalize the operation of marijuana retail stores, marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana infused-product manufacturers, and marijuana testing facilities– with a $50/ounce tax on wholesale distribution of marijuana products.
- Allow local governments to ban marijuana facilities, but not allow them to override private possession and home cultivation of marijuana.
Though a 2010 proposition to legalize marijuana in California failed 53.5% (No) to 46.5% (Yes), support for legalization has continued to gain momentum over the last three years.
Just last month, 56% of respondents to California’s annual Field Poll said they would vote Yes to legalize the statewide cultivation, sale, and possession of marijuana in California — the largest majority since The Field Poll began tracking Californians’ views toward marijuana legalization in 1969. Only 39% said they would vote No and 5% were undecided.
That’s good news for the organizers gathering signatures to put the 2014 California Hemp Act on the ballot. They’ll need 500,000 valid signatures by February 24 to give voters a chance to legalize marijuana in California this year. If the law fails to make it onto the ballot or doesn’t meet voter approval at the ballot box, Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project says:
“We really believe that 2016 is the best opportunity to pass these laws. We’ve seen that the more people that vote, the more people that will vote to end prohibition. “
Marijuana legalization activists have their eye on Massachusetts for the 2016 elections, which may be the year Bay State residents make the final push for full legalization.In 2008, Massachusetts voters decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, making possession of less than an ounce punishable by a $100 fine. In 2012, the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative passed with 63% of the vote, making Massachusetts the 18th state to legalize medical marijuana.
In November 2013, Bay State Repeal filed the paperwork to put marijuana legalization on the ballot in 2016. With 19 months left to file the final wording, the campaign’s goal is to create the nation’s simplest and least restrictive solution for marijuana reform.
Bill Downing, who serves as treasurer for the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, believes legalization activists have reason to be optimistic:
“In 2011 a DAPA Research poll of registered voters commissioned by MassCann / NORML found 58% support for legalizing marijuana and regulating it in the same manner as other agricultural commodities with sales prohibited to underage persons.”
Like California in 2010, Oregon recently put the question of marijuana legalization to the voters in 2012, but the initiative failed 53.25% (No) to 46.75% (Yes). Also like California, a lot has changed in Oregon since then.In fact, just six months after Oregon Ballot Measure 80 failed, a statewide Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll of likely 2014 voters found that when asked if marijuana should be taxed, regulated, and legal for adults, 63% said “Yes” and 34% said “No.” More to the point: when asked how they would vote on a November 2014 initiative to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults aged 21 or older, 57% of likely voters said “Yes” and 38% said “No.”
Why did opinion swing so much in just six months? Part of it is in the details. The legalization initiative that failed in 2012 allowed individuals to cultivate and possess an unlimited amount of marijuana. The May 2013 poll asked how voters would respond to an initiative that legalized marijuana in amounts that “do not exceed specified limits.”
With signature-gatherers on the move to get just such a proposal on the ballot while the state legislature grapples with the possibility of legalizing marijuana itself, High Times magazine is calling legalization this year in Oregon “inevitable.”
It may not be long before Washington state is not the only Washington where marijuana is legal. The District of Columbia, seat of the nation’s capitol which still prohibits marijuana federally, could feasibly legalize marijuana next.
Earlier this month, a city council panel unanimously voted to decriminalize marijuana and make possession of less than an ounce comparable to a parking ticket, punishable by a fine as little as $25. The measure is likely to pass because it has support from 9 out of 13 city council members.
But that’s not all: The DC Cannabis Campaign, which has already raised over $100,000 for its efforts, has filed a marijuana legalization initiative for the 2014 ballot, titled “The Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014.” Making it to the ballot isn’t very costly and only requires 25,000 valid signatures. Once there, the initiative would be placed before DC voters, who in a Washington Post poll published this month, overwhelmingly favor legalization 63% to 34%.
When the city council’s public safety committee passed the decriminalization measure, Chairman Tommy Wells said, “This is a social justice bill that addresses disproportionate impact.” In a city that had a higher marijuana arrest rate than any state in 2010, and which arrests 8 times more blacks than non-blacks for possession, according to the ACLU, voters will have fairness and equality on their minds as much as city finances.