In what may be the most difficult ballot initiative to evaluate in advance of the upcoming mid-term elections, the voters in Alaska will decide on November 4 whether to approve full marijuana legalization for all adults, including retail sales.
For most of us, Alaska, the largest state in the Union by area, and the least densely populated, is an exotic location, far removed from the Lower 48 both geographically and culturally. The largest city, Anchorage, has a population of only 292,000, and the second largest, Fairbanks, has only 32,000 residents. The Alaska territory was purchased from Russia in 1867 and only became a state in 1959. The state has always leaned heavily Republican, which might suggest it would be an unlikely state for marijuana legalization to appear on the ballot; but the state is also known as the home of a lot of people who want to minimize the role of government in their lives, which would appear to bode well for legalizers.
History of Marijuana Legalization in Alaska
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“Rep. O’Rourke is an ardent supporter of reforming our nation’s marijuana policies,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “In just his first term, he has proven to be an intelligent and pragmatic politician with a long future in front of him. We strongly encourage voters to support his re-election campaign to keep a true reform champion in Congress.”
Representative O’Rourke issued the following statement to supporters and voters on the topic:
“Those of us who live in this region, in El Paso and Juarez, have a unique perspective on the war on drugs. We know that billions of dollars in cash, drugs, guns and arms are transited through this community. We know that billions of dollars in federal resources from the United States and Mexico are spent on law enforcement to try and stop that illicit drug trade. And we also know, all too well, the suffering that accompanies that black market trade in illegal drugs. It is because of that experience and looking back over the 40-year, failed war on drugs that I’ve come to the conclusion that at least when it comes to a drug like marijuana, we owe ourselves, and especially our kids, a much better policy.
As a rational and humane country, we can decide, as we did with alcohol that the harms in the prohibition of marijuana far outweigh any gains in security and in our efforts to keep these drugs away from our fellow citizens.
If you support my work and advocacy on this issue, I hope I can count on your help.”
For the next 24 hours, Rep. O’Rourke will be running a “Powered by People” campaign with the goal of raising $123,200 in amounts less than $200 to illustrate that everyday citizens can compete with special interests in politics and issues such as marijuana law reform drive voter engagement. If you are interested in donating to this campaign you can do so by clicking here (donations are tracked so donations made through this link will show as support for his marijuana reform stance).
As we approach the midterm elections on November 4th, I want to focus on the two statewide voter initiatives that seek to fully legalize marijuana in Alaska and Oregon. This week I will examine the proposal in Oregon, known as Measure 91.
Will the Third Time Be the Charm?
This will be the third time – and, hopefully, the charm time – that Oregon voters have voted on a marijuana legalization proposal. The first initiative, Measure 5 in 1986, the Oregon Marijuana Legalization for Personal Use Act, would have legalized the personal possession and cultivation of marijuana for personal use; it won the support of only 26 percent of the voters. More recently, Measure 80 in 2012, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, would have allowed the personal cultivation of marijuana and established a licensing system for the commercial production and sale of marijuana; it came close, with the support of 46.5 percent of the voters.
The latest Oregon initiative, Measure 91, proposed by New Approach Oregon, would legalize the use of marijuana by those 21 and older, and establish a system of licensing, taxing and regulating marijuana under the auspices of the Oregon Liquor Control Board.
Specifically, under this proposal adults would be permitted to possess up to eight ounces of “dried” marijuana and cultivate up to four plants. And they would be allowed to give up to an ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana products in solid form or 72 ounces of marijuana products in liquid form, to other individuals 21 and older; they could not be compensated or reimbursed for these transactions. Adults would be allowed to purchase up to an ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana products in solid form, or 72 ounces of marijuana products in liquid form from properly registered businesses. These limits are more permissive than those previously approved in Washington and Colorado, and may provide a test of how restrictive a legalization system must be to win the approval of a majority of the voters.
“Rep. Cohen is one of the most outspoken and effective supporters of marijuana legalization we currently have in Washington,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “From introducing legislation such as the National Commission on Marijuana Policy Act, co-sponsoring every single federal marijuana law reform measure, to grilling drug war proponents in committee hearings, Cohen has been unrelenting in his fight to end our nation’s war on marijuana consumers and it is crucial we keep him in Congress to continue the fight. Marijuana reform supporters in his Memphis district have no clearer choice this November than to keep goin’ with Cohen.”
Representative Cohen has been a relentless attack dog in the fight to end marijuana prohibition. In just the past year, he has made national headlines taking drug war stalwarts to task, including DEA administrator Michele Leonhart, Attorney General Eric Holder, and acting Drug Czar Michael Botticelli (click links for video).
Speaking to Attorney General Holder in one such hearing, Cohen stated:
“One of the greatest threats to liberty has been the government taking people’s liberty for things that people are in favor of. The Pew Research Group shows that 52 percent of people do not think marijuana should be illegal. And yet there are people in jail, and your Justice Department is continuing to put people in jail, for sale, and use, on occasion, of marijuana. That’s something the American public has finally caught up with. It was a cultural lag. And it’s been an injustice for 40 years in this country to take people’s liberty for something that was similar to alcohol. You have continued what is allowing the Mexican cartels power, and the power to make money, ruin Mexico, hurt our country by having a Prohibition in the late 20th and 21st century. We saw it didn’t work in this country in the 20s. We remedied it. This is the time to remedy this Prohibition.”
To donate to NORML PAC to help elect cannabis friendly politicians, click here.
“Rep. Heck has been a relentless defender of Washington State’s new legal marijuana market and has committed himself to ensuring that the necessary reforms are pursued to make this program a resounding success,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “Washington state residents would be well served by giving him another term in Congress to continue to push for the required changes to federal marijuana laws to allow legalization to flourish.”
“Washington state voters made the decision two years ago to regulate our state’s marijuana marketplace. As their elected U.S. Representative, part of my job is ensuring we implement this new law in a safe and fair manner,” Representative Heck stated, “One of the most important aspects of implementation from a public safety standpoint is making sure regulated marijuana businesses have consistent access to banking and financial services. Without this access, the regulated marijuana industry is forced to operate on a largely cash-only basis, increasing the chances of tax evasion, embezzlement, and even armed robbery.”
“As a member of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, I’ve pressed my colleagues, the Treasury Department, and the Department of Justice to make needed changes in how the federal government treats regulated marijuana businesses. Congressman Ed Perlmutter and I have introduced bipartisan legislation that would grant legitimate marijuana businesses access to banking services in states with legal marijuana markets,” Heck continued, “Earlier this spring, after prodding by myself, Rep. Perlmutter, and many in the regulated cannabis industry, the Obama Administration issued new guidance as to how federal regulators should treat banks and credit unions who have regulated marijuana businesses as clients. We’ve already started to seem some of the effects of this new guidance: multiple credit unions in Washington state have begun offering financial services to regulated marijuana businesses. I will continue working this issue in the months and years ahead, just as the voters of my district want.”