With the ever-so-catchy moniker “Marijuana Midterm” being bandied about for tomorrow’s Election Day aside, it’s time for voters in Alaska, Oregon and D.C. to follow the ranks of Colorado and Washington and legalize the use of cannabis for adults over 21.
It appears that both public opinion and the dollars are behind it. According the New York Times, major funding went into legalization campaigns in Oregon and Alaska, far outweighing the opposition’s coffers. The Marijuana Policy Project, based in D.C., funded “84 percent of the $867,000″ raised in Alaska, while the Drug Policy Alliance, based in New York, is backed by billionaire George Soros who has contributed about $780,000 to the legalization campaign in Oregon. Even Virgin billionaire and international all-around Fun Seeker Richard Branson is a member of the Drug Policy Alliance’s international honorary board.
Let’s start with Alaska. If anyone in the Western Hemisphere needs easy access to legal weed, it’s probably our freedom-loving friends to the Great White North. You gotta have something to keep you going through those long, dark winters. Legalizing cannabis use, or Measure 2, in Alaska makes tons of sense for a variety of reasons, but perhaps this one is the most convincing: The ACLU reports that nearly 81 percent of arrests in Alaska are for marijuana possession, as cited in this piece by the Alaska Dispatch News. That’s a lot of tax dollars not working for the public good.
The truth is that Alaska and Oregon have historically been ahead in ending marijuana prohibition all along, according the previously cited NYT article. “Oregon’s Legislature debated full legalization in 1973 and ended up passing the nation’s first law decriminalizing possession of small amounts. Alaska’s Supreme Court held in 1975 that possession of marijuana in one’s home was protected by constitutional privacy law.”
Of course, small opposition campaigns have been in effect. The “Big Marijuana Big Mistake” campaign, encouraging voters to “vote no on 2″ is applying the same scare tactics and downright untruths to fight legalization, calling concentrates and edibles “potent and dangerous,” and claiming that they’re harmful to children and that products have “resulted in deaths and hospitalizations in Colorado since marijuana industrialization began there.” So, yes, the “Oh, won’t somebody save the children!” argument is there once again. And we thought Halloween was over.
And even for our lovely friends to the South, it’s still too close for comfort. After all, life is not all Portlandia in Oregon. The Washington Post reported on Oct. 29 that in a small poll, “44 percent support the measure, while 46 percent oppose it.” They added that “Oregon Public Broadcasting commissioned a poll that found support winning 52 percent to 41 percent. But 7 percent said they were undecided, and the poll had a margin of error of four percentage points.” Voter age, especially whether the younger crowd who supports legalization gets out and votes, will make all the difference in Oregon.
Arguably, D.C. is one of the most crucial battlegrounds this Election Day. While it’s all well and good to decriminalize and legalize cannabis in big Western states, as former New Yorkers, a couple of us Janes feel it’s even more important in major urban areas that are densely populated with blacks and Hispanics, populations that have been specifically targeted and persecuted with these draconian drug laws. Minority arrests for smallish amounts far outweigh white arrests, and in these cities, where cops certainly have more important things to do than bother with minor marijuana arrests, legalizing it for personal use would help everyone. The DCist is reporting that Initiative 71, which would legalize small amounts for personal use, is “very likely” to pass, but it will be postponed while the city figures out how to tax and regulate it. That’s a waiting game we’re all too familiar with here in Washington State.
Hopefully, the good voters will choose tomorrow to take more steps to end prohibition. It’s about time a few more states and D.C. joined the fray. We, for one, can’t wait until the entire West Coast has legalized it. Perhaps we can rename it “Weed Land.”
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