What The Elections Tell Us About The Future Of Marijuana Legalization

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  While voters in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia passed measures in favor of legalizing pot, Florida rejected the use of medical marijuana. The various campaigns and their outcomes offer valuable insights into the politics of pot, now that 17.5 million Americans live in states that permit retail marijuana.

Philip Wallach and John Hudak, who are experts in governance studies, summarize the key takeaways from Tuesday’s election results:

Legalization is not just for liberals: Previous ballot measures legalizing marijuana occurred in blue states, and that trend continued last night with the votes in Oregon and DC. But Alaska shows that marijuana initiatives can also succeed in conservative states — especially those with a libertarian inclination. “It is an issue that even red state voters — in a very Republican year — were willing to embrace. Who knows: maybe even the Republican-controlled Congress will decide the (increasingly illusory) status quo in federal law is due for reform.”

You have to pay to play: Ballot initiatives are expensive. For starters, getting them on the ballot requires an intense campaign of lobbying and collecting signatures. And then, during the elections, the advocacy money spent by the opposing sides of the issue can rival the amount spent in a race between two candidates.


For Marijuana, A Second Wave Of Votes To Legalize

OREGON:  Two years after voters in Colorado and Washington State broke the ice as the first states to legalize sales of recreational marijuana to adults, residents of Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., will vote next week on ballot measures patterned on those of the two pioneers. People on both sides of the issue say these initiatives could determine whether there will be a national tide of legalization.

A changing political landscape has weakened anti-marijuana efforts. As the libertarian movement in the Republican Party has gained force, with leaders like Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, supporting decriminalization of marijuana and others going even further, an anchor of the conservative opposition to legalization has eroded.

And Democrats have found that supporting legalization — once an invitation to be labeled soft on crime — no longer carries the risk it once did, as public discussion of prison overcrowding and law enforcement budgets has reframed the issue.


Medical Marijuana Is “Done” According to Latest Poll

FLORIDA:  Last week news broke that Amendment 2 was in serious danger of not getting the necessary 60 percent in order to pass.

And now, with Election Day exactly one week away, another poll says it’s still not looking great for medical marijuana legalization.

Gravis Marketing, a PR firm based in Winter Springs, conducted its own automated phone survey and found that 50 percent would vote for the amendment, and 42 would not, with 8 percent still not sure.

This is a huge shift from July, when a Quinnipiac poll showed that nearly 90 percent of voters polled said they back the legalization of medical marijuana.