By Anthony Martinelli, Sensible Washington
If you’re a cannabis activist, or if you simply support sane cannabis policies, you’re likely in a pretty good mood as we head into the November election.
There’s plenty of reason to be full of anticipation.
In Oregon, the Secretary of State has recently announced that the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act will be on this November’s general election ballot. This initiative, now known as Measure 80 (and being supported widely, from people like country star Willie Nelson to one of the state’s largest unions), would:
- Legalize the possession and unlicensed personal cultivation of cannabis
- Set up a cannabis commission to regulate and run legalized retail outlets, issue licenses for individuals to cultivate and sell cannabis to retail facilities, etc.
- Direct this commission, and permit state pharmacies, to sell cannabis at-cost for medical purposes. Retail sales will be for-profit, with 90% of the profit going directly into the state’s general fund (a huge political draw); 7% will go to the Department of Human Resources, and 2% will actually be distributed to state committees designed to both promote Oregon hemp (as fiber, protein, etc.), and to develop/promote the production of biodiesel from hemp seed
- Set the penalty for possession of, or attempt to purchase cannabis by a minor as a maximum fine of $250
In Colorado, voters will be deciding on whether or not to change their state’s constitution, adding an amendment (Amendment 64) that would explicitly make cannabis legal. This amendment:
- Legalizes possession of an ounce, as well as the unlicensed personal cultivation of 6 plants, 3 of which can be mature
- Legalizes retail outlets, cultivation for commercial use, etc.
- Directs the State Department of Revenue to license these cannabis outlets. If they fail to do so, localities would be permitted to issue these licenses
- Would retain current minor and driving while under the influence statutes
Both of these initiatives have plenty to be hopeful about, and Colorado is especially primed for a victory. Just last month, a Rasmussen Poll found that 61% of Colorado voters support legalizing cannabis, at least similiar to alcohol (with only 27% in opposition).
These numbers are more than promising.
Washington State voters will be deciding on a more controversial measure, Initiative 502, that would;
- Allow for personal possession of up to an ounce of cannabis (as well as 16 ounces of edibles and 72 ounces of liquid cannabis products like teas)
- Direct the Liquor Control Board to both regulate and license cannabis retail locations as well as commercial cultivation to sell to these cannabis facilities (personal cultivation would remain illegal)
- Alter current driving while under the influence laws to set a per se policy with a 5 ng/ml THC limit
Initiative 502, mostly due to the inclusion of the per se driving limit, has caused a heated debate among those who support cannabis law reform. Whatever side of this debate you may fall on, one of the worries, that it passing will push other states to adopt a similiar THC limit, will be reduced greatly if Colorado and/or Oregon pass legalization initiatives in the same year, sans the per se limit. There’s also a lot to be said of the fact that, on a national level, its passage will be seen as a referendum on prohibition, and not on our current driving laws.
All three of these are undeniably viable as initiatives that could pass this November.
In Washington State, recent polling shows support for legalized cannabis at an even 50%, with 37% in opposition.
In Oregon, things are a little tougher, with the same polling group (Public Policy Polling) finding support in Oregon for legalization to be at 43%, with opposition at 46%. Still, with a solid initiative that accounts for industrial hemp as well as medical and recreational cannabis; with financial and political backing from unions and groups like LEAP, and with a group of solid activists working for their campaign, it would be naive to assume that Oregon Measure 80 won’t be law by the end of this year.
However, the historic significance of this November’s election due to the above-mentioned initiatives, and the damage they could inflict on the stronghold of prohibition, is as exciting as it is inspirational. The impact of their success would send shock-waves throughout the country. Regardless of the election results, the fact that they’ve made the ballot shows that the reform movement has continued to grow larger and more mainstream, and that these efforts will not stop until prohibition has been put to an end.
As it’s always been, there’s a lot of work left to be done. However, it’s clear that the cannabis reform movement is far stronger than it’s ever been, and victory: not as far away as it may seem.