Fresh off victories in Colorado and Washington, drug reform activists are wondering where the next hotbed for legalization will emerge. The Marijuana Policy Project, a leading group behind those 2012 wins, told Raw Story that they think they know the answers: Oregon, Maine and California.
Oregon is particularly of interest to MPP’s leadership, who saw a legalization initiative fail in the state last year even as Colorado and Washington’s efforts passed. MPP spokesperson Mason Tvert said he believes it failed because the proposed regulatory system was not strong enough, leaving room for improvement, either by the legislature or at the polls.
“If such action isn’t taken by the legislature, we are very interested in woking with activists throughout Oregon to have a ballot measure to that effect [in 2016],” Tvert said.
At a town hall meeting with constituents on Sunday, marijuana legalization was a hot topic for Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who proclaimed that his state would legalize the drug “sooner rather than later” and said he’s working with about two-dozen other lawmakers on the matter. A representative for MPP added that the group is willing to spend at least $700,000 to boost a legalization initiative in 2016, according to KATU News.
“I think that Oregon is a state where a majority of voters recognize that marijuana prohibition has failed and it’s time for a more sensible approach,” Tvert said. “We had 47 percent of the vote in this last election, and that is what many considered a poorly drafted measure. I think it’s a strong likelihood that you’ll see a strong measure approved by the voters in 2016.”
Then there’s California, the biggest prize of all for reform advocates, which Tvert said would be a big focus in 2016.But before those states can legalize, there’s some parliamentary business to attend to. Specifically, Tvert said, “there are a few states that have tax and regulate measures in their legislatures this year.”
“One of those will be Rhode Island, which we think will be the first one to legalize marijuana through its legislature,” he said. “In terms of ballot initiatives, the only one we see as viable [in 2014] is Alaska, which also has the most supportive voting population of any other state [that year].”
He added that a similar legislative effort is underway in Maine, which MPP is prepared to back up with a ballot initiative if lawmakers fail to approve. Nevada similarly “may be ready,” Tvert said, but not without the support of “a vigorous initiative process” which has yet to be determined.
“Most importantly, we need all voters to understand that marijuana is an objectively less harmful product than alcohol,” he concluded. “I think then voters will appreciate the arguments about regulating marijuana and making sure the money is being directed to legitimate businesses instead of the underground market and cartels.”
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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