Election 2014: Marijuana on the Ballot

On November 4, three major votes on full marijuana legalization and regulation will take place in Washington, D.C., Alaska, and Oregon. The votes will follow successful legalization bids in Washington and Colorado that went into effect earlier this year, making them the first states in the country to sell and tax marijuana like alcohol. Oakland, California also fully legalized the sale and regulation of marijuana in 2004, but the rest of the state has yet to follow suit—although it has decriminalized possession of up to one ounce.

The New York Times wrote, “Ideally, the federal government would repeal the ban on marijuana, so states could set their own policies without worrying about the possibility of a crackdown on citizens violating federal law. Even though a majority of Americans favor legalization, Congress shows no sign of budging. So it’s better for the states to take the lead than to wait for an epiphany on Capitol Hill that may never come.”

Additional Common Dreams coverage of marijuana reform and the broader 'War on Drugs' can be found here.


ALASKA: Marijuana Legalization Initiative - Measure 2

The Basics:

This ballot measure would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and up to six plants. It would also legalize the manufacture, sale, and possession of marijuana paraphernalia, create a marijuana control board, and tax the drug at $50 per ounce wholesale. The measure is closely modeled on the successful legalization bill in Colorado. Alaska previously decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults, and surveys indicate that 18 percent of Alaskans smoke marijuana.

Ballot Question:

This bill, titled An Act to Tax and Regulate the Production, Sale, and Use of Marijuana, would tax and regulate the production, sale, and use of marijuana in Alaska. The bill would make the use of marijuana legal for persons 21 years of age or older. The bill would allow a person to possess, use, show, buy, transport, or grow set amounts of marijuana, with the growing subject to certain restrictions.

The full text of the initiative can be read here.

Yes on Measure 2:

  • Proponents of Measure 2 say that marijuana is less harmful to consumers than alcohol, for a number of reasons: Unlike alcohol, marijuana use does not cause death, and there has never been a fatal marijuana overdose. The health related costs of alcohol are eight times greater than those of marijuana. Likewise, alcohol use has been shown to cause brain damage and cancer, while marijuana use does not. Alcohol is a contributing factor in assault, domestic abuse, and sexual assault, while marijuana has never been linked to violent crime—although the black market which has emerged from marijuana prohibition is associated with violence.
  • Supporters of Measure 2 include Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D); Rep. David Guttenberg (D); Alaska House of Representatives candidates Larry Murakami (D), Adam Wool (D), and Joe Blanchard (R); former deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Corrections Bill Parker; former chief prosecutor Laurie Constantino; and former KTVA-TV reporter Charlene Egby (aka Charlo Greene), who also owns the Alaska Cannabis Club.
  • According to Ballotpedia, as of October 25, 2014, The Alaska Campaign to Regulate Marijuana had received a total of $884,765 in contributions, with big donations from the Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance.

No on Measure 2:

  • Opponents of Measure 2 say that legalization would lead to extensive commercialization from outside interests, rather than focusing on local farmers. Opponents also say that legalization could increase costs to state government in regulation and oversight. Responding to supporters’ argument that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, opponents say that because alcohol has already caused damage in Alaskan communities, there is no reason to add another drug to the mix.
  • Opponents of Measure 2 include the Anchorage Municipal Assembly; the Alaska Association of Police Chiefs; the Napaskiak Tribal Council; the Bristol Bay Native Corporation; Rep. Steve Thompson (R); Rep. Pete Higgins (R); Rep. Tammie Wilson (R); and Alaska House of Representatives candidates Sharron Hunter (D) and David Talerico (R).
  • As of October 25, 2014, 'Big Marijuana. Big Mistake. Vote No on 2' had received a total of $108,450 in contributions, according to Ballotpedia.

Polling

-Alaska: Measure 2-
DATE POLLSTER YES NO UNDECIDED
 10/8/14 Ivan Moore 57.2%  38.7% 4.2%
 10/8/14 Dittman Research  43% 53% 4%
 7/31/2014 - 8/3/2014  Public Policy Polling  44%  49%  8%
5/8/2014 - 5/11/2014 Public Policy Polling 48% 45% 7%

OREGON: Legalized Marijuana Initiative - Measure 91

The Basics:

Currently, only medical marijuana is legal in Oregon. Voters in the state rejected a previous legalization bill in 2012, which was similar to, but less stringent than measures that passed in Washington and Oregon that same year. If passed, Measure 91 would legalize cultivation, possession, delivery, and sale of marijuana to adults, licensed and regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Tax revenues and fees collected from regulation would go towards social and public services, including: 40% to Common School Fund; 20% for mental health/alcohol/drug services; 15% for state police; 20% for local law enforcement; 5% to Oregon Health Authority.

Ballot Question:

This bill, titled the Control, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Act of 2014, would legalize the possession, manufacture, and sale of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, and allow adults to possess up to eight ounces of "dried" marijuana and up to four plants. The bill would also task the Oregon Liquor Control Commission with regulating sales of marijuana.

The full text of the initiative can be read here.

Yes on Measure 91:

  • Supporters of Measure 91 say that legalizing marijuana would weaken the black market and help reduce violence along the southern border that is caused by drug cartels and other costs of prohibition. Likewise, legalization would make it harder for minors to acquire marijuana. Supporters also point to the fact that there are more than 12,000 arrests and citations for marijuana in Oregon every year, and that legalizing marijuana would reduce burdens on police officers, who could instead spend those same resources on fighting violent crime.
  • Supporters  include former U.S. attorney Kris Olson; former Oregon Supreme Court Justice Bill Riggs; travel writer Rick Steves, who helped pass Washington’s legalization bid; Drug Policy Action of Oregon; New Approach Oregon; Cascade Policy Institute; American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 88 and 328; United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555; Northwest Oregon Labor Council; and Moms for Yes on 91.
  • The Oregonian said, "Measure 91, far from revolutionary, would simply allow Oregon adults to obtain something they may obtain now, but without having to stroll through a 'medical' loophole or drive over a bridge to a neighboring state. The measure would be worth supporting for reasons of honesty and convenience alone, but it also would raise millions of dollars per year for schools and other purposes. For that reason, it deserves support even from those who aren't normally high on taxes."
  • The Skanner officially endorsed the measure, stating, “Of all ballot measures facing voters in Oregon, this might be the most far-reaching. As the so-called War on Drugs has failed to stem their use and has filled our jails and prisons with low-level offenders—all at taxpayer expense—this measure might be the best chance we have to restore some sanity to the system. Legalize it, regulate it like alcohol, and create a new revenue stream for the state. We vote YES.”
  • The Portland Mercury wrote, "Naysayers' other main point is that marijuana could make roads less safe. This hasn't happened in Washington or Colorado, as far as anyone can tell. Speaking of those pioneering states, their experience will be crucial. As we've pointed out, the OLCC needs to do its research to avoid some of the pitfalls currently causing problems in Washington. With Measure 91, we've already arrived at a far less onerous tax structure, and the commission will have until 2016 to form up good policy. That's ample time to ensure Oregon carefully comes to its senses about marijuana—at long last."
  • Additional support came from a Portland-based firm called ECONorthwest, which studied potential tax revenues of a legalized marijuana industry in the state. The firm found that the first and second years would generate $38.5 million and $78.7 million, respectively.
  • According to Ballotpedia, supporters have raised over $7.5 million as of October 25, 2014.

No on Measure 91:

  • Opponents of Measure 91 say that there is no "legitimate" way to regulate amounts of marijuana, as the bill does not put limits on numbers of growers or store locations permitted. Opponents also say there are no regulations on the manufacture and advertising of marijuana edibles, including no THC-potency testing mandates, no packaging and labeling requirements, and no restrictions on marketing and advertising of edibles, which they say could be appealing to kids. Opponents also note there are no established driving rules for marijuana impairment.
  • Opponents of Measure 91 include Judge Gary Thompson; Judge Tom Kohl; Rep. John Huffman (R-59); Rep. Gene Whisnant (R-53); Sen. Tim Knopp (R-27); former U.S. attorney Dwight Holton; District Attorneys Josh Maquis, Daina Vitolins, and Eric Nisley; Sherrifs Jason Myers, Pat Garrett, Jim Adkins, and Tom Bergin; the Oregon Pediatric Society; the American Academy of Pediatrics; the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry; the American Medical Association; the American Society of Addiction Medicine; the Oregon Republican Party; Restore America; Parents Opposed to Pot; the Oregon State District Attorney’s Association and Sheriff’s Association; the Oregon Narcotics Enforcement Association; and the Oregon Catholic Conference.
  • As of October 17, No on 91 was the only group officially opposing the measure; that group had raised $168,532 according to Ballotpedia.

Polling

-Oregon: Measure 91-
DATE POLLSTER YES NO UNDECIDED
10/26/2014 - 10/27/2014 KGW/The Oregonian 44% 46% 7%
 10/08/2014 - 10/11/2014 DHM Research 52% 41% 7%
 09/22/2014 - 09/24/2014  Survey USA 44% 40%  16%
06/05/2014 - 06/09/2014 Survey USA
51% 41% 8%

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Marijuana Legalization Initiative - Measure 71

The Basics:

City legislators decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in March 2014, but Measure 71, if passed, would render that law obsolete. As the capital of the United States, D.C. faces additional challenges in passing the measure, particularly because marijuana is still illegal under federal law and Measure 71 has been criticized by government officials. Likewise, Congress has the power to simply overturn the measure. D.C. Cannabis Campaign chairman Adam Eidinger said he was concerned that “members of Congress will use their power to stop District of Columbia voters from being able to fully participate in the democratic process.” Questions also remain about how and when Measure 71 will take effect if it passes.

Ballot Question:

This bill, called the Legalization of home Cultivation and Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act, would fully legalize the possession and use of up to two ounces of marijuana and the cultivation of up to three plants for adults over 21 years of age. It would also legalize the use and sale of drug paraphernalia.

Read the full text of the initiative here.

Yes on 71:

  • Supporters of Measure 71 say that legalizing marijuana would increase safety from the black market for buyers and improve quality for consumers, while helping to weaken drug cartels. Supporters note a study by the National Institutes of Health which found that the safety of children is not threatened by legalization. Supporters also say that the measure would give dignity to victims of the country’s racist drug war, particularly as statistics show a majority of marijuana arrests are made on African Americans, despite an equal or higher use of the drug by white people.
  • Supporters of Measure 71 are the D.C. Cannabis Campaign and Adam Eidinger, co-owner of Capital Hemp.

No on 71:

  • Opponents of Measure 71 say that the initiative would violate federal law.
  • Opponents of Measure 71 are D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan and D.C. councilmember Tommy Wells (D).
  • The Washington Post editorial board opposes Measure 71 on the grounds that legalization should be approached after more research on marijuana has been done and legalization is shown to work in other regions. The Post wrote:
    It’s instructive that the council, in assessing the city’s approach to marijuana enforcement, chose the more cautious path of decriminalization rather than outright legalization. Voters would do well to consider the reasons for that caution. The American Medical Association has come out against legalization, arguing that 'cannabis is a dangerous drug and as such is a public health concern.' The active ingredient in marijuana has been linked to memory problems, impaired thinking and weakened immune systems, not to mention it acts as a gateway to more dangerous drugs. Dangers are more pronounced for young people. A study just published in the Lancet Psychiatry reported that teenagers who smoke marijuana daily are 60 percent less likely to complete high school. Advocates of legalization say it would not apply to young people but with legalization inevitably comes a message of approval. It’s not been a year since Colorado became the first state to allow recreational marijuana use and, as the Smart Approaches to Marijuana has catalogued, there have been negative consequences, including increased instances of impaired driving and increased use by youth. With marijuana already decriminalized, there’s no reason for the District to rush the next step; why not at least give Colorado a bit more time to provide lessons? D.C. voters should vote no on Initiative No. 71 on Nov. 4.

Polling

-Washington, DC: Measure 71-
DATE POLLSTER YES NO "OTHER"
10/20/2014 - 10/22/2014 Public Policy Polling 52% 35% 13%
 9/14/2014 - 9/16/2014  Washington Post 63% 34% 3%
 1/12/2014  Washington Post 63% 63% 3%