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Lewiston Becomes Latest City in Maine to Put Marijuana Legalization on the Ballot

By: Wednesday September 3, 2014 11:29 am
marijuana activists

Lewsiton’s measure would make it legal for adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana

The voters of Lewiston, Maine will have a chance to express their opinion about marijuana legalization this November. According to the Portland Press Herald, the Lewiston City Council voted unanimously to put the marijuana legalization initiative on the general election ballot. Lewiston is the second largest city in the state.

The initiative is the work of Citizens for a Safer Maine which has been collecting signatures to local legalization initiative on the ballot in several cities through the state. They got a similar initiative on the ballot in Portland last year, which was approved overwhelmingly, and already have one on the ballot in South Portland this year.

If approved this Lewsiton measure would make it legal under local law for adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. Since it doesn’t change state law the actually direct impact maybe modest, but it is a big part of a large political effort.

These local votes will be used to either push the state legislature to take action of marijuana legalization or lay the groundwork for a statewide initiative campaign in 2016.

How these local efforts do should provide a very good estimate of the level of support marijuana legalization has in Maine. Using some relatively simple math it is possible to use these local results to create rough picture of how well the issue would likely perform statewide. The result from the Portland election last year were fairly promising.

Marijuana Use in Vogue

By: Wednesday September 3, 2014 9:32 am

Vogue author Jeffrey Steingarten writes on cooking with legal marijuana

I mean this both figuratively and literally. Vogue Magazine features an article about one of the editors recent experience with cooking legal marijuana in Colorado after having not consumed it in over two decades. From Jeffery Steingarten’s piece in Vogue:

More friends drifted in for the next few hours while, using the medicated oil and butter we had brought, Pieter prepared a hundred or so savory gnocchi with rosemary, and Laurent pan-fried fresh local trout and made a sabayon for dessert. One friend of Kip’s who makes cannabis edibles for sale in Boulder, brought a tray of scrumptious medicated chocolate fudge. Kip supplied bottles of good wine. Somebody suggested that the bhang would make a lighter, more delicious substitute for eggnog at New Year’s. A few guests smoked joints. Unlike the folks in downtown Boulder, nobody recoiled from the smoke.

The 50 guests thus had a wide choice of intoxicants, and nearly everybody seemed mellow and happy and chill. Nobody fell asleep or acted out or had a bad trip. The newly legalized cannabis was simply another option.

This is how marijuana legalization gains acceptance and goes mainstream. The more places that legalize it the more different journalists, politicians, writers, and media outlets are willing to talk about it. This in turn makes it easier for others to talk about openly, and it provides a look at legalization from a variety of perspectives. This self-feeding cycle enables the issue to move beyond a narrow political debate to the broader culture.

Now that this has started to happen more voters are seeing that marijuana legalization isn’t some great scary unknown, but mostly just “another option” for adults instead of alcohol.

I find it tough to believe most people could read this article and come to the conclusion that society would be better off if our tax dollars were used to arrest, prosecute, and jail individuals like Steingarten simply for making some Bhang, even though that is still the law in most states.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy

Photo by Sioen Roux under Creative Commons license

Poll: Medical Marijuana on Track for Narrow Victory in Florida

By: Tuesday September 2, 2014 9:42 am

Florida’s Amendment 2 needs 60% of the vote to pass

It is likely that Florida will adopt medical marijuana this November, but at this point victory isn’t assured. New polling shows Amendment 2, Florida’s Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, is doing well but could still be in danger.

According to Gravis Marketing, if the election were held today 64 percent of Florida voters would support Amendment 2 while 26 percent would vote it down. An additional 10 percent remain undecided.

Usually 64 percent support would be great for a ballot measure, but Florida is an unusual state with an unique set of laws. Unlike most initiative states Florida doesn’t allow citizens to put new laws on the ballot, only constitutional amendments. For this constitutional amendment to be adopted it needs to win with 60 percent of the vote, instead of the normal 50 percent in most other states.

With 64 percent support Amendment 2 is likely to clear this requirement, but it’s close enough that things could change as we approach election day. The anti-Amendment 2 campaign in Florida is extremely well funded thanks to the strong financial support of Billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy

Photo by Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance used with permission

Santa Fe City Council Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana

By: Thursday August 28, 2014 9:25 am

Santa Fe City Council decided to directly adopt the ordinance instead of having it go on the ballot.

Thanks to a successful ballot initiative campaign by Drug Policy Action and ProgressNow NM the city of Santa Fe has decriminalized marijuana. It is the first city in New Mexico to do so.

The original plan was to collect enough signatures to get their decriminalization measure on the November ballot. Yet after enough valid signatures were verified the Santa Fe City Council decided to directly adopt the ordinance instead of having it go on the ballot where it was expected to easily win. From the Santa Fe Reporter:

In a surprise move, Santa Fe City Council voted to decriminalized marijuana Wednesday night.

The resolution, passed narrowly on a 5-4 vote, changes the city’s penalties for possessing one ounce of marijuana or less and marijuana-related paraphernalia from a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a $50-$100 fine and up to 15 days in prison to a civil infraction and a $25 fee. It also instructs the city’s police officers to treat possession of small amounts of marijuana as the lowest law enforcement priority.

The change will go into effect in a few days.

The victory is a bittersweet for the campaign which was hoping a big public vote in support for marijuana decriminalization could add momentum to similar changes throughout the state. Still, this is a big policy win for the people of New Mexico.

Hopefully more local legislators around the county will start realizing the people actual want marijuana reform and won’t need a ballot initiative hanging over their heads to get them to act. The initiative is a very valuable tool for the marijuana reform movement but expensive, time consuming and limited. In much of the country they aren’t allowed.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy

How Congressional Dysfunction Could Help Marijuana Reform in the Nation’s Capitol

By: Wednesday August 27, 2014 10:15 am

When Congress is just kicking the can they normally don’t have time to kick the people of D.C

The historically unproductive Congress has mostly been a burden on the country but one of the few unlikely benefactors of this dysfunction could be marijuana reform efforts in the District of Columbia.

The people living in D.C. live under an unfair and anti-democratic set of rules. Even though the American citizens living in the district have no representation in Congress, Congress has the power to change its local laws. Congress can directly change local D.C. law approving a stand-alone bill, but how Congress most often interferes by attaching a policy rider effecting the district to a much larger piece of legislation. These policy riders only go into effect, though, if the the larger bill they are attached to is signed into law –  and this Congress isn’t passing very many laws at the moment.

For example, last month the House approved the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill with a policy rider from Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) which would prevent D.C. from using funds to implement marijuana reform. It was designed to stop Initiative 71, a local marijuana legalization ballot measure which is expected to win with strong support from D.C. voters this November.

Because of this historic level of dysfunction in Congress this particular appropriations bill is likely to die and all its policy riders will die with it. Instead Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) expects that when Congress briefly returns next month they will just pass a clean (meaning policy rider-free) continuing resolution to cover all funding issues until after the election. Professional budget watcher Stan Collender expects that continuing resolution to be followed by yet another one in November to maintain the status quo well into 2015.

These moves  basically kick the can down the road but when Congress is just kicking the can they normally don’t have time to kick the people of D.C. When Congress is doing nothing it is also not interfering.

At minimum, pushing any final fight about Congress interfering in D.C.’s marijuana laws until after the election should make it politically more difficult to do so. That would require Congress to abuse their power to directly contradict what was just revealed to be the will of the local electorate. In addition, it is likely voters in Oregon and Alaska will also approve legalizing marijuana and that should weaken the prohibitionists’ position.

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