Voters all across the country will cast ballots tomorrow in elections that could alter the course of U.S. marijuana policy for years to come. Here are the 9 most important contests to watch for the movement to end marijuana prohibition:
- California: Proposition 19 would make marijuana legal for all adults – it represents the best chance to date for a single state to overturn the failure of marijuana prohibition and offer an alternative for others to follow. It would make it legal for all adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, as well as grow a 25-square-foot marijuana garden on their property. It would also allow localities to tax and regulate marijuana sales, but it remains unclear how the federal government would react if Prop 19 passes. Website: yeson19.org
- Arizona: Proposition 203, an MPP-backed initiative, would allow patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, and other life-threatening diseases to use marijuana with their doctor’s recommendation. Patients could purchase their medicine from tightly regulated, state-licensed dispensaries or grow their own if they live more than 25 miles from a clinic. Website: stoparrestingpatients.org
- Oregon: Measure 74 would expand the state’s existing medical marijuana law by authorizing regulated, state-licensed nonprofit clinics to provide improved patient access to their medicine. The system would generate an estimated $3 to $20 million a year for the state through taxes and fees. Website: measure74.com
- South Dakota: Measure 13 would allow patients suffering from cancer, AIDS and other serious ailments to use marijuana with a recommendation from their doctor. Patients could grow their own medicine or designate a caregiver to grow it for them. Website: sdcompassion.org
- Vermont: VOTE Peter Shumlin for governor. Shumlin (D), the state Senate pro tempore, played a major role in passing Vermont’s medical marijuana law in 2004, and has been a staunch advocate for marijuana decriminalization. MPP has spent years lobbying for a decriminalization law in Vermont. With Shumlin as governor, Vermont would be well poised to pass decriminalization and expand its medical marijuana law by authorizing licensed dispensaries. Website: www.shumlinforgovernor.com
- California: NOT Steve Cooley for attorney general. Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley (R) is a rabid anti-marijuana zealot who has falsely claimed that all medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal, and that he would continue to prosecute adults for marijuana crimes even if voters pass Proposition 19. If he wins the election for state attorney general, he will become the state’s top law enforcement official and could reverse years of progress toward saner marijuana laws in California. Website: notcooley.com
- New Mexico: NOT Susana Martinez for governor. Martinez (R), the leading candidate for governor, has said she will work to overturn New Mexico’s medical marijuana law if elected. New Mexico’s law enjoys wide popular support and is often described as the tightest-regulated law in the country. But Martinez believes federal law should trump a popular local law – despite the Obama administration’s promise of non-intervention in state medical marijuana laws. Website: donttakeawaymymedicine.org
- Connecticut: VOTE Dan Malloy for governor. Malloy (D) has said that he “absolutely” supports decriminalizing marijuana, as well as medical marijuana legislation that would protect seriously ill patients from arrest. Outgoing Gov. Jodi M. Rell vetoed medical marijuana legislation in 2007. If Malloy were elected governor, proponents would be given renewed hope for passing a medical marijuana law in Connecticut. Website: danmalloy.com
- Massachusetts: More than 70 local municipalities in Massachusetts will be voting on non-binding resolutions and public policy questions calling on the state government to pass medical marijuana or end marijuana prohibition entirely. These initiatives are a great opportunity for Massachusetts voters to send a strong message to their state lawmakers, as well as give local organizers a better sense of where things stand for future marijuana initiatives in Massachusetts. Website: masscann.org
You can find links to other MPP state voter guides at our state page.
Now -- if you haven't already -- go out and VOTE!
About one-third of “unlikely” voters in Oregon said they were more enthusiastic and more likely to vote after learning that a medical marijuana initiative was on their state’s ballot this year, according to a new survey released today by the measure’s campaign. Measure 74 – which has been endorsed by the Oregon state Democratic Party – would add state-licensed dispensaries to Oregon’s existing medical marijuana law.
According to the survey, which polled a random sampling of under-40, Democratic and independent voters, 31% of respondents said they were more likely to vote after hearing that Measure 74 was on the ballot, while only 18% were more enthusiastic after hearing about the contest between their state’s candidates for governor.
These findings add further merit to the argument many have made in the run-up to Nov. 2 – that marijuana initiatives could be the key to increasing youth voter turnout in this and future elections. Once mainstream political candidates acknowledge that there is a large and growing constituency of voters who want to see our marijuana laws change, it will hopefully be just a matter of time until they begin to embrace marijuana reform as a major issue that’s in their own best interests to endorse.
As Jon Walker points out, in Oregon’s 1998 election, more total votes were cast for Measure 67, the medical marijuana initiative, than for any other statewide candidate or ballot measure.
Every day there are more and more stories in mainstream media outlets about Prop 19 and the growing national movement to end marijuana prohibition. That alone is a promising development. But what’s even more telling has been the way the tone of the coverage is starting to shift from asking, “Should marijuana be legal?” to, “Is marijuana going to be legal? And if so, when, where, and how?”
Check out just three examples from today:
Democratic strategists are studying a California marijuana-legalization initiative to see if similar ballot measures could energize young, liberal voters in swing states for the 2012 presidential election.
California's Proposition 19, if approved by voters, will legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana legal for the first time in the United States. Many other states have relaxed their marijuana laws. Is this the tipping point when marijuana follows alcohol and gambling from criminal offense to harmless pastime -- and source of new tax revenue?
Like it or not, the tens of millions of people in California serve as a laboratory for new legislation, and their state sets a legal example that the rest of the states might follow. So, even if you do not live in California, pay attention to Proposition 19: maybe someday marijuana may come to a store near you.
In July, I wrote about the growing belief among political strategists that candidates can benefit from supporting marijuana reform. Just last week, the Oregon Democratic Party endorsed Measure 74, the ballot question that would add state-licensed dispensaries to that state’s medical marijuana law.