November 5, 2014
New Marijuana Initiatives Loom as 3 Win Approval
ANCHORAGE — Conservative candidates garnered majorities in many elections around the country on Tuesday, but so did efforts to legalize marijuana. And the lessons of that complex pattern — with voters in Oregon, Washington, D.C., and here in Alaska approving recreational marijuana, and in Florida supporting medical marijuana — are already being absorbed for the next wave of state voter referendums, and fights, already planned for 2016.
People on both sides of the issue saw the victory in Alaska, where Republicans control most of the state government and liberal ideas rarely get much traction, as a particularly vivid signal flare.
“One of the really exciting developments from the results last night is that we have now legalized marijuana in a red state,” said Taylor Bickford, a spokesman for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the main pro-legalization group here.
To be sure, the margin of victory was smaller here than in other places, with 52 percent of the voters supporting legalization. But it was a clear majority nonetheless. About 55 percent of voters supported legalization in Oregon, and 69 percent said yes in Washington. In Florida, almost 58 percent of voters supported the first major attempt in the South to legalize marijuana for medical uses.
Florida law, though, requires a 60 percent majority for any constitutional amendment, and legalization sponsors said they were already getting ready for another attempt in 2016, a presidential election year that they said would probably draw more young voters who are generally considered a prime base of support.
In addition, voters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada are likely to be able to vote on marijuana laws.
But the question of rules and how the laws are put into effect — in the case of Washington, use and possession of marijuana are forbidden on federal land and where Congress can step in on local matters — is complex.
None of the new laws take effect immediately, and Oregon has until January 2016 to formulate licensing policies and rules.
The rule-writing procedure will differ from that of the first states to legalize, Washington and Colorado in 2012, because regulators will have those two examples to study, said Rob Patridge, the chairman of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
Mr. Patridge, who is also a district attorney in Klamath County, near the California border, said visits to retail and growing operations in Washington State and Oregon would be part of the rule-writing agenda. The Oregon Legislature could also amend the measure even before the rules are written, he said.
“We’re going to do it Oregon’s way,” Mr. Patridge said.
Initiative 71 in Washington, D.C., allows residents to possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use and to grow up to six cannabis plants at home. Measure 91 in Oregon allows possession by adults of up to eight ounces and four plants. Ballot Measure 2 in Alaska allows adults to possess one ounce and six plants. In all cases, the minimum age for legal possession of recreational marijuana is 21.
But the main opposition group here in Alaska, Vote No on 2, said in a statement that even though the voting was over, the conversation was not.
“We look forward to a meaningful discussion of an Alaska-based approach to how this drug should be viewed legally and how to protect our communities and our kids from the commercialization of this substance,” the statement said.
A spokesman for the group, Charles Fedullo, said a meeting would be held on Friday to talk about next steps for volunteers to stay involved. “Right now it is just analyzing what is happening and looking for the best way forward,” he said.