My Best Guess on Outcomes of Marijuana Initiatives

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DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  This column is being written a couple of days prior to the November 4th election, and will be published on Monday, Nov. 3, election eve. So it only seems appropriate to offer my prognosis on the four statewide marijuana-related voter initiatives, as well as a number of municipal voter initiatives in Michigan and Maine.

Our Opponents Claim the Sky Is Falling

Before setting out on this dangerous endeavor of projecting election results, I should acknowledge the emergence of a seemingly re-energized gang of drug warriors, still willing to exploit fear and misinformation to justify the continued criminal prohibition of marijuana, and to protect their jobs. Our opponents were clearly caught somewhat off-guard by the legalization victories in 2012 in Colorado and Washington, despite their opposition. These smug law-enforcement and drug counseling industry reps had grown accustomed to their ability to shape the public debate over marijuana policy, and to paint anyone who favored the option of legalizing and regulating marijuana as being out of the political mainstream.

Over the last several months, we have seen Kevin Sabet with Project Sam, the principal remaining anti-marijuana zealots supporting prohibition, making outrageous claims about the experience with legalization in these first two states, claiming all sorts of unintended consequences. One vocal opponent of the Florida initiative recently  referred to the overwhelmingly favorable experience in Colorado as the “Colorado calamity.” The Brookings Institution, in fact, did a comprehensive report on the first six-months of legalization in CO, and found the roll-out of the new law had been overwhelmingly successful. But no one needs to worry Sabet and his ilk with the facts.

One of our opponents in Oregon recently claimed at a public debate that five children in Colorado had died from overdosing on edibles, only to be embarrassed into apologizing and retracting the statement when confronted with demands for the evidence (which, of course, did not exist, since it is impossible to die from an overdose of marijuana, either edible or smoked). While the number of these ideologues making new claims of “reefer madness” is small, they continue to get national media attention with their allegations, and to confuse and dumb-down the public debate.

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