Emboldened by OR, AK, D.C., Marijuana Advocates to Try CA in 2016

Emboldened by OR, AK, D.C., Marijuana Advocates to Try CA in 2016

Advocates for legal marijuana, emboldened by the movement’s recent midterm election successes in Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia, will seek to place legal marijuana initiatives on the ballot in California in 2016.

At least one pro-marijuana legalization organization, the Marijuana Policy Project, has already begun fundraising for 2016 ballot initiatives, according to the Associated Press. 

“This year’s election was a large step forward, but the 2016 election will be a huge leap toward ending marijuana prohibition in this country once and for all,” Marijuana Policy Project executive director Rob Kampia said in a statement.

On Tuesday, voters in Oregon and Alaska approved legislation that will legalize marijuana for recreational use, following on the heels of Colorado and Washington, which voted for legalization in 2012. Voters in the District of Columbia approved the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and up to three mature plants for personal use, but stopped short of outright legalizing the drug for recreational use.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the pro-marijuana legalization Drug Policy Alliance, told the Associated Press the victories were especially meaningful in light of major conservative wins this midterm cycle.

“It was an extraordinary day for marijuana and criminal justice reform, and all the more remarkable on a night the Democrats were getting beat up so bad,” Nadelmann said. 

Previous efforts to legalize marijuana for recreational use in California have failed. In 2010, California voters rejected Proposition 19, a measure that would have allowed possession of marijuana for personal use and the ability to consume the drug at licensed establishments, by a margin of 53.5-46.5%.

When Colorado and Washington passed legalization in 2012, some activists reportedly wanted to rush a legalization measure onto this year’s ballot in California. 

Instead, advocates will wait until the 2016 presidential election, when a larger, younger electorate turns out to vote, to try to pass legalization for recreational use in California.

“This is a Republican wave year, so we’re excited for our prospects,” advocate David Boyer told the AP. “In a tough midterm, we gained steam.”

Still, one anti-legalization advocate maintains that the legalization movement’s success this election cycle will help motivate the opposition in future elections. 

Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, told the AP that failed pro-legalization efforts in Florida, as well as several Colorado cities voting to ban marijuana dispensaries this cycle, could serve as a “wake-up call” to legalization opponents prior to the 2016 election.

“This is going to make our side redouble our efforts to find donors who can put forth real money,” Sabet told the AP. But for now, Sabet added, pointing out the results in Florida and Colorado, “I think we’ve slowed the legal marijuana freight train.”


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