Voters in Washington State and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, and that decision marked the biggest turning point in the 75-year history of pot prohibition.
It’s just two years later and voters across the country face groundbreaking decisions about the local future of cannabis. If anything, the election on Nov. 4 could be even more significant than the 2012 contest. It won’t carry the same novelty, but it stands to pack a punch, and it could set the tone for coming reforms across the United States.
“With legalization initiatives qualified in two states, with another in D.C. likely to be certified soon, plus several recent wins on the floor of the Republican-controlled U.S. House, 2014 is shaping up to be the biggest year for marijuana reform yet,” Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, said earlier this year. “If we win these legalization initiatives, it’s not only likely that more states will follow suit in 2016, but that presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle are going to see the value in being perceived as pro-reform.”
If all these measures pass (unlikely), it would be a grand victory for reform. If they all fail (also unlikely), it could set the movement back years.
The most significant votes will take place in Oregon and Alaska, both of whose voters will decide whether to legalize recreational pot. Both races are considered fairly tight, with a small lead for pro-legalization forces.
The initiative in Oregon would legalize possession of up to eight ounces at home, possession of up to an ounce in public, and cultivation of up to four plants. The proposal in Alaska would legalize possession of up to an ounce and cultivation of as many as three plants.
Opposition to both initiatives is strong, though, and it’s not a sure bet reform will prevail in either state. Success may be slightly more likely in Alaska than in Oregon, where opponents have ramped up a statewide effort to scare voters away from legalizing weed.
Things look much brighter in Washington, D.C., where polls show a large majority favors legalization. The city acted to decriminalize pot earlier this year, but voters are likely to take the next logical step and completely legalize the drug.
The District will decide an initiative that would legalize possession of up to two ounces and the cultivation of up to six plants at home. But unlike the votes in Oregon and Alaska, this one wouldn’t legalize commercial sale or cultivation. Weed would be partially legalized and fully decriminalized.
There’s a decent chance the federal government will interfere if legalization does pass in D.C. Congress has the authority to negate any District policy because the city is a federal zone. Washington has home rule, but only to a point. It’s not at all clear, however, whether Congress would do so or whether President Obama would sign off.
More than a dozen Michigan cities are also voting on legalization petitions in November. Reform efforts in 14 cities were cleared for the ballot earlier this year. The following cities qualified to appear on the November ballot: Berkley, Clare, East Lansing, Frankfort, Harrison, Huntington Woods, Keego Harbor, Lapeer, Montrose, Mt. Pleasant, Onaway, Pleasant Ridge, Port Huron, and Saginaw.