Marijuana-related initiatives are likely to increase voter turnout, according to polling data released by George Washington University.
Nearly four out of ten participants in the nationwide survey said that they would be “much more likely” to go to the polls if an initiative seeking to legalize marijuana appeared on the ballot. An additional 30 percent of respondents said that they would be “somewhat” more likely to participate in an election that also included a marijuana-specific ballot measure.
Presently, two statewide cannabis reform measures have qualified to appear on the 2014 ballot. Alaska voters will decide whether to allow for the commercial production, retail sale, and use of cannabis by those over age 21. The measure will appear on the August 19 primary ballot. According to the results of a February Public Policy Polling survey, 55 percent of registered Alaska voters “think (that) marijuana should be legally allowed for recreational use, that stores should be allowed to sell it, and that its sales should be taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol.”
Florida voters in November will decide on a measure to allow for the use and dispensing of marijuana by those who are authorized by their physician to engage in cannabis therapy. Survey data released in November by Quinnipiac University reported that 82 percent of Florida voters support reforming state law to allow for the medicinal use of marijuana.
Several proposed ballot measures to regulate the production and sale of marijuana for adults also are pending in Oregon. All of these measures are still in the signature-gathering phase.
Alaska: Election Officials Affirm Legalization Measure Has Enough Signatures To Qualify For The 2014 BallotFebruary 5, 2014
State election officials have affirmed that a proposed initiative to regulate the production and retail sale of cannabis to adults has obtained the necessary number of signatures from registered voters to appear on 2014 ballot.
The initiative’s proponents, The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana in Alaska, gathered more than 45,000 signatures from registered Alaska voters. On Tuesday, the director of the Alaska’s Division of Elections confirmed that of those signatures, 31,593 have been verified, thus qualifying the measure for a public vote. The lieutenant governor’s office is expected to certify the measure for the 2014 ballot in the coming days, once all of the remaining signatures have been counted and verified.
Once certified, the initiative will be placed on the August 19 primary election ballot, as is required by Alaska election law.
If approved by voters, the measure would legalize the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis as well as the cultivation of up to six-plants (three flowering) for personal consumption. The measure would also allow for the establishment of licensed, commercial cannabis production and retail sales of marijuana and marijuana-infused products to those over the age of 21. Commercial production and retail sales of cannabis would be subject to taxation, but no taxes would be imposed upon those who choose to engage in non-commercial activities (e.g., growing small quantities of marijuana for personal use and/or engaging in not-for-profit transfers of limited quantities of cannabis.) Public consumption of cannabis would be subject to a civil fine.
The measure neither amends the state’s existing medical marijuana law, which was approved by voters in 1998, nor does it diminish any privacy rights established by the state’s Supreme Court in its 1975 ruling Ravin v State.
Under present state law, the possession of marijuana not in one’s residence is classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 90-days in jail and a $2,000 fine.
According to the results of a statewide Public Policy Polling survey, released today, 55 percent of registered voters “think (that) marijuana should be legally allowed for recreational use, that stores should be allowed to sell it, and that its sales should be taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol.” Only 39 percent of respondents oppose the idea. The survey possesses a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent.
Additional information about the campaign is available here.
Today, voters across the nation head to the polls to cast their ballots in a number of state and local elections. While there are no statewide marijuana initiatives this year, that doesn’t mean some Americans won’t have the chance to vote in favor of sensible marijuana law reforms.
In Portland, Maine, Question 1 will appear on the ballot. This measure would remove all criminal and civil penalties for possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana within the city. No arrest, no fine, no crime. NORML encourages all Portland residents to get out and vote YES on Question 1.
Three areas in Michigan will also be voting on local marijuana legalization initiatives. Lansing, Ferndale, and Jackson will be voting on measures to legalize the private adult possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana in those locations. NORML encourages voters in these cities to get out and vote YES on these efforts.
Below is a statement from NORML PAC on the endorsements it has made in this year’s races:
18th Legislative District State Senate – Assemblyman Peter Barnes: “NORML PAC is endorsing Assemblyman Peter Barnes in his campaign for a seat in the state Senate representing the 18th Legislative District. Assemblyman Barnes has been a strong supporter of medical use as well as marijuana decriminalization during his tenure in the Assembly and we believe he will prove a strong advocate for reform issues should he be elected to the Senate. Meanwhile, his opponent, East Brunswick Mayor David Stahl, oversaw an over 35% increase in marijuana arrests in his city from 2010-2012. For these reasons, NORML PAC is endorsing Assemblyman Barnes for state Senate.”
15th Legislative District State Assembly – Assemblyman Reed Guscoria: “NORML PAC is pleased to endorse Assemblyman Reed Guscoria in his campaign for reelection to the New Jersey State Assembly. Assemblyman Guscoria has been a vocal advocate for reforming New Jersey’s marijuana laws, from drafting the original NJ medical marijuana legislation, being the primary sponsor of the NJ Assembly’s marijuana decriminalization bill, and continuing to push for sensible reforms to New Jersey’s medical marijuana program to make it workable for patients.
Assemblyman Guscoria has been an important leader pursuing reforms that roll back the senseless and destructive prohibition on marijuana and move New Jersey towards a policy that is smart on crime and compassionate towards the state’s patient population. ”
Mayoral Election – Steve Berke: “NORML PAC is pleased to endorse Steve Berke in his campaign for mayor of Miami Beach. Steve has been a tireless advocate for reforming marijuana laws and has used his campaign and platform to educate the public about the failures of marijuana prohibition and the necessity of pursuing a new policy. We believe that during his mayorship, Steve Berke would be an excellent spokesman for advancing the conversation around ending our country’s war on cannabis consumers, as he has already done for many years outside of elected office. Steve Berke believes strongly in reforming our current laws and moving towards a system of legalization and regulation, for these reasons NORML PAC supports his candidacy for mayor.”
President Obama Breaks His Silence on Marijuana Legalization: We’ve Got Bigger Fish to Fry Than Cannabis UsersDecember 14, 2012
Breaking his silence on the topic of marijuana legalization since two states approved ballot initiatives to regulate cannabis, President Barack Obama addressed the issue in an interview with Barbara Walters this week.
While the administration’s broader policy is still being developed, the president stated that arresting recreational users in these states would not be a priority.
“We’ve got bigger fish to fry. It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal. – President Obama
The president also clarified that he personally is not in favor of leglization, but that it is a more complex issue than his own view on it:
“This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law. I head up the executive branch; we’re supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what we’re going to need to have is a conversation about, how do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it’s legal?” – President Obama
One line stands out as particularly interesting, during his answer he says:
“What I think is, that at this point, in Washington and Colorado, you’ve seen the voters speak on this issue. – President Obama
This is a great start and an encouraging sign that the federal government doesn’t intend to ramp up its focus on individual users. Though considering it is extremely rare for the federal government to handle possession cases (only a few percent of annual arrests are conducted by the federal government), and that this is the same stance he took on medical cannabis before raiding more dispensaries than his predecessor, his administration’s broader policy will be the one to watch and according to his Attorney General Holder that pronouncement may come soon. Speaking yesterday in Boston, Attorney General Holder stated that:
“There is a tension between federal law and these state laws. I would expect the policy pronouncement that we’re going to make will be done relatively soon.” – Attorney General Eric Holder
UPDATE: Politico has now posted President Obama’s interview for viewing. Check it out below.
I have an op/ed today online at The Hill.com’s influential Congress blog (“Where lawmakers come to blog”).
Read an excerpt from it below:
Voters say ‘No’ to pot prohibition
Voters in Colorado and Washington made history on Election Day. For the first time ever, a majority of voters decided at the ballot box to abolish cannabis prohibition.
… Predictably, the federal government – which continues to define cannabis as equally dangerous to heroin – is not amused. According to various media reports, the Justice Department is in the process of reviewing the nascent state laws. Meanwhile, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has already affirmed that the agency’s “enforcement of the [federal] Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged.” That may be true. But in a matter of weeks, the local enforcement of marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington most definitely will change. And there is little that the federal government can do about it.
States are not mandated to criminalize marijuana or arrest adult cannabis consumers and now two states have elected not to. The federal government cannot compel them to do otherwise. State drug laws are not legally obligation to mirror the federal Controlled Substances Act and state law enforcement are not required to help the federal government enforce it. Yes, theoretically the Justice Department could choose to prosecute under federal law those individuals in Colorado and Washington who possess personal amounts of cannabis. But such a scenario is hardly plausible. Right now, the federal government lacks the manpower, political will, and public support to engage in such behavior. In fact, rather than triggering a federal backlash, it is far more likely that the passage of these two measures will be the impetus for the eventual dismantling of federal pot prohibition.
Like alcohol prohibition before it, the criminalization of cannabis is a failed federal policy that delegates the burden of enforcement to the state and local police. How did America’s ‘Nobel Experiment’ with alcohol prohibition come to an end? Simple. When a sufficient number of states – led by New York in 1923 – enacted legislation repealing the state’s alcohol prohibition laws. With state police and prosecutors no longer complying with the government’s wishes to enforce an unpopular law, federal politicians eventually had no choice but to abandon the policy altogether.
… On Election Day, voters in Colorado and Washington turned their backs on cannabis prohibition. They are the first to do so. But they will not be the last. Inevitably, when voters in the other 48 states see that the sky has not fallen, they too will demand their lawmakers follow suit. As more states lead the way, federal politicians will eventually have no choice but to follow.