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The Next States To Legalize Marijuana

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Legalize Marijuanaby Phillip Smith

After last weekend’s International Drug Reform Conference in Denver, a clear picture is emerging of which states are likely to be the first to follow Colorado and Washington down the path of marijuana legalization. And while some recent polls suggest the American public is getting ahead of even the leading marijuana reform honchos, well-laid plans already in place point to the possibility of a 2014 trifecta, with Oregon following Alaska to legalization through the initiative process and Rhode Island becoming the first state to legalize through the legislature.

While activists in a number of other states — including Arizona, California, and Wyoming — are already working on legalization initiatives for next year, reform leaders cautioned that 2016 remains a better prospect. But they also acknowledged that recent favorable shifts in public opinion, most notably last week’s Gallup poll showing an historic 58% in favor of legalization, could accelerate matters.

“We’ve been saying wait for 2016, but we seem to be changing our minds, at least a little,” said Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) executive director (and key funding conduit) Ethan Nadelmann.

“I keep getting surprised,” agreed Graham Boyd, counsel to Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis (and key funding conduit). “Activists in any number of states are saying they can win now, and we’re hearing this from multiple states, and polls in multiple states are also coming in much more favorable.”

While groups like DPA and the Marijuana Policy Project (another key funding conduit) have a game plan for the next few years that largely emphasizes 2016 for initiative states, the movement needs to be flexible enough to take advantage of emerging opportunities, Boyd warned.

“The main thing is growing public support. I think you can look at the list of 2016 states and argue that any of them could go in 2014,” he said. “If the public is ready in 2014 and something happens before 2016 and that lift tails off, we may find ourselves saying we missed the wave.”

Among those initiative states where the plan had been to wait for 2016 are Arizona, California, Maine, and Montana. In Arizona, a signature gathering campaign for 2014 is underway, but appears to be running up against the clock, while in California, two separate initiatives have been filed for 2014, but so far lack the access to big money required to actually make the ballot.

Major marijuana reform players in California led by the ACLU of California also recently attempted to set the stage for a 2016 initiative (and perhaps smother the 2014 efforts, some activists feel) with the formation of a blue ribbon panel to study policy issues around marijuana regulation, taxation and legalization. The panel would study and deliberate for the next two years, meaning their recommendations would not be ready by 2014.

“We put together a panel of experts headed up by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsome, the highest-ranking official to come out in support of taxing and regulating marijuana,” explained ACLU of California criminal justice and drug policy director Allen Hopper. “We tried to bring together a group of experts who right now may not advocate for legalization — including doctors, an elected sheriff, and the California Society of Addiction Medicine — to begin to tackle some of the policy issues that need to be resolved in California. We haven’t asked people to write ballot language, but we have a range of folks who can talk to their communities. We support legalizing, but in terms of how we talk about it and how a ballot initiative campaign would be run, you have to meet the people where they are.”

While even the reform movement leaders concede that things could move faster than they think, the three surest bets for a legalization effort next year are Alaska, Oregon, and Rhode Island.

In Alaska, a tax and regulate marijuana initiative that would also allow adults to grow up to six plants has been certified and is now in the signature-gathering process. Proponents have until next June to gather 30,169 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Alaska already allows for adults to possess small amounts of marijuana in their homes under the state Supreme Court’s interpretation of the state constitution’s privacy provisions. If the initiative makes the ballot and passes, Alaska will be the next state to legalize through the ballot box simply because under state law, ballot initiatives are voted on during primary — not general — elections, and thus will be a done deal before Oregon gets a chance to vote.

In Oregon, the oft-fractious marijuana reform community appears to have largely coalesced around a control, regulate, and tax initiative from New Approach Oregon filed with secretary of state’s office last Friday. As important as a unified movement is financial support from big funders, and the Oregon effort appears to have it. The campaign has already collected more than $120,000 in early funding from DPA’s political action arm, Drug Policy Action; Peter Lewis; and the Oregon-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit American Victory Coalition.

“New Approach Oregon is doing a legalization campaign in 2014, and based on the polling data, we think this is viable and there is a really good chance of this happening, and we’ve secured some funding. so I think Oregon is the next state to legalize,” predicted New Approach founder Travis Maurer.

Back east in Rhode Island, initiatives aren’t an option, so activists there are looking to make it the first state to legalize via the legislative process. And they’re getting some help from MPP, which thinks the prospects are good.

“I think Rhode Island will be next, followed by Alaska next year and Oregon soon after,” said MPP director of state policies Karen O’Keefe.

“We’ve had medical marijuana for seven years and got decrim in 2012,” explained Rebecca McGoldrick, executive director of the Providence-based Protect Families First, which has stepped in to do drug reform advocacy in the state. “Last year was the first year we focused exclusively on regulation, and the conversation is changing; even our opponents are coming around, and the governor has said he would sign it if it’s done in the right way.”

Those are the three states reform leaders deem most likely to legalize next year, although, as noted above, the situation remains fluid — especially if public opinion continues to shift as dramatically as it has been doing in the last couple of years, and particularly since the victories in Colorado and Washington last year.

One long-shot is Missouri, where Show-Me Cannabis Regulation has been building the marijuana reform movement for the past two years. Show-Me activists are busily holding educational meetings across the state this year, and have plans in the state legislature, but they’re also eyeing the initiative process.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Missouri,” said Boyd. “There is a lot of belief there that they are in striking range.”

“People say ‘Missouri…really?’ but Missouri is in the middle of the country, and the country is ready,” said Show-Me’s Amber Langston. “There’s a slight possibility for 2014. We have the language pretty much wrapped up and ready; we’ll see what the poll numbers look like. If not 2014, we’ll do it in 2016.”

The race to legalize is on. The early favorites are set, but there’s still time for other entrants to join the race, and there may be some surprises. It’s going to be an interesting next 12 months.

Article From StoptheDrugWar.org - Creative Commons Licensing - Donate

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  • John Brown

    Johnny Green sounds biased. The war is almost over. You will not continue to ruin innocent peoples lives over a natural growing plant. It isnt even a question of let them have it or dont. Its get the hell off peoples backs for taking a natural herb like any other natural herb. Who is anybody to say anyone cant use a natural herb for relief? Maybe you listen John Green, but many people dont care what some overbearing, controlling government says about them medicating themselves. For the people dealing with the pain and discomfort, The ONLY CHOICE is relief. You are going to throw them in jail for that? Take all their money and possessions and leave them with nothing? Give them a felony so they cant even get a job? WTF??? That is the WORST plan I have ever heard of! If you support this, then your credibility goes out the window with these rediculous laws targeting free thinking people. Its all because marijuana helps to free your mind from the chains of bondage that the government tries to put on its people. When people smoke cannabis, they open their eyes and their minds to all of the lies and illusions, and all the ways there is attempt after attempt to control the people in one way or another. I hope Johnny Green can open his mind alittle and think of others instead of how smart he will sound for an article on the internet. Wheres your compassion?

  • painkills2

    Well, you’re a pushy broad, aren’t ya? Seriously, I don’t know how long I will be able to afford my online “presence” (but I’m enjoying the experience). :)

  • painkills2

    So funny, cuz I think I might BE a troll…
    Casinos in Texas? When?

  • painkills2

    We’re just talkin’. You know, about our favorite subject. What’s the problem?

  • Ashley Mills

    Me too!
    You’re online so much you should make a site! or team up with one and help out with legalization!

  • California Budz

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  • painkills2

    The beauty of single-page bills is that loopholes cannot be hidden. For instance, the legislation that separated commercial and investment banking was very, very simple and worked for decades. Almost half a century! If a one- or two-page bill can be created to Free Cannabis, in which everyone signs on to, then maybe all the laws can flow from that one document. There used to be a pain patient movement that created something just like that. Texas was the first state to enact an Intractable Pain Treatment Act that protected both doctors and patients. Unfortunately, this law was not enforced for very long due to the escalation of the drug war.

  • painkills2

    *Green widow for sale?

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  • painkills2

    In my few visits to Loco Johnny’s (whoever that is) website, I have noticed that the format is… a little sparse. So I too look forward to future changes. :)

  • Ashley Mills

    Hehe, I don’t own a website. Wish I knew how to build one and all that stuff but don’t really want to do that.
    I like looking up the news, helping when can, and joining cannabis communities.
    The 420newswire.com is just a news website I go to for ATON of marijuana related news…
    Maybe more news then most would like to read…. But Im also interested in to see what “Loco Johnny” is going to design the community like. The menues look interesting so far but I wonder how the background will look and you know just the design stuff lol, idk the terms.

  • painkills2

    Well, you’ve given me nothing to reply to, Miss Ashley… I will keep checking on your website and hope to see you… In The Cloud. Peace.

  • Fiend

    I think CCHI 2014 movement is a good idea but too idealistic for the politicians to allow to pass. After all these years things are starting to change and the legalization movement needs to make compromises to keep moving forward and to achieve a reasonable goal in the American Political system. Cannabis is clean but politics is filthy.

  • Michael Jolson

    i do not want pot to be overly taxed like it is in CO, Wa, and soon to be Oregon with these funders- MPP, DPA- they pretend pot is bad and create excessive taxation under the myth that only their approach can win-!

  • Michael Jolson

    http://the-human-solution.org/news-category/california-cannabis-hemp-initiative-2014/

    this is all u need to know about what is going on in California- Newsom, MPP, etc- they alll know CCHI 2014 is gaining steam and are trying to stop it-!

  • Michael Jolson

    please do listen to one of our supporters- that’s right one of our bigtime supporters talk about something MPP and DPA doenst want u to hear- they want articles like this to come out- lame and 1% like- let the people with the money dictate- that is exactly what i wrong with this movement- this article exemplifies this-

    These people should be telling the viewers to support the CCHI 2014 instead of saying let the guys with the cash win!

    http://the-human-solution.org/news-category/california-cannabis-hemp-initiative-2014/

  • Guest

    http://the-human-solution.org/news-category/california-cannabis-hemp-initiative-2014/
    here is what our growing campaign is about- making cannabis 100% legal in California in 2014- now we do not need the 1%- MPP, DPA- funded by the 1% to tell us how to vote and when to vote in California!
    Co, Wa, and maybe Oregon- it’s too late for them- but we can still enact 100% Releglaization before thier tax and regualte schemes come back in 2016!
    And these folks won’t be releasing the cannabis prisoners anytime soon!

  • Guest

    Yo Philip- we don’t believe U!

    http://the-human-solution.org/news-category/california-cannabis-hemp-initiative-2014/

    U , Philip, are a cheerleader for MPP and are just reciting thier garbage! They want people to think CCHI 2014 can’t make the ballot becuase they are the 1% and are represemnted by the 1% in the pot business- MPP, DPA, etc!
    They can try to smother us and we will rise up against these imperialistic and capitaiistic pigs!
    Power to the People!

  • Fiend

    I care what MPP, DPA and NORML has to say. I’ll listen to what you have to say too but I’m not from CA. I think MPP and DPA are taking a realistic compromise to get legislation passed in system they actually have to work in and not in the system they wish they were working in. Its all baby steps to the domino effect then we work on adapting and evolving after a measure of success is achieved.

  • Guest

    so, someone from Oregon attemting to report about people from Colorado talking about how California should vote- i get it- u all basically have no idea what is really going on out here!

  • Guest

    Meanwile, back in California- NOT IN DENVER- we are out fighting to free the ganja and its prisners while the 1% in the pot movement tries to smother us- good luck- try accurate reporting sometime- quit being an MPP cheerleader- really- u sound like a MPP cheerleader to me!

    http://the-human-solution.org/news-category/california-cannabis-hemp-initiative-2014/

  • Guest

    Yo Philip- we don’t care what MPP or DPA says- really we don’t !
    Philip- here is what is really going on in California- the growing CCHI 2014 movement – GROWING Philip not SHRINKING!
    What state do u live in, Philip?
    Well, here is the 411:
    http://www.cchi2014.org/placestosign.html