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Annual 4/20 Year in Review for Marijuana: First Legal Sales Going Well

By: Sunday April 20, 2014 4:20 am

The 4/20 Year in Review

It is once again that time of the year where I look back at all the progress that has been made on marijuana reform since the last 4/20. Since this past November was an odd-numbered year there weren’t any big advances via the ballot but there have been notable advances in implementation and by local legislatures.

Marijuana Legalization

Uruguay – In December President José Mujica signed a law legalizing marijuana in Uruguay sparking an international conversation about reform. Becoming the first country in the hemisphere to legalize marijuana Uruguay could serve as a nucleus for change in Latin American.

Colorado – The other major change was legal recreational marijuana sales finally started in Colorado this January. Fortunately, there was no effort by the federal government to stop these businesses and no major problems have emerged. In fact, the data so far is very positive. Significant tax revenue is coming in, pot arrests have plummeted, support for legalization among Coloradans went up, and the state is experiencing a tourism boost. Hopefully, as other people see how well things are going in Colorado it will create pressure for change elsewhere

Alaska – An initiative to legalize marijuana qualified for the ballot this year in Alaska. The people will get to vote on it either this August or November. Polling shows it is on track to be approved.

Medical Marijuana

In the past year states adopted real medical marijuana laws: New Hampshire, Illinois and Maryland. That brings the total of medical marijuana states up to 21 plus the District of Colombia. In addition, a medical marijuana amendment made the ballot in Florida for the 2014 November election and it is polling very well.

Marijuana Decriminalization

Several legislatures have also moved to decriminalize marijuana since the last 4/20 making possession of small amounts of marijuana merely a civil fine. Vermont adopted their decriminalization in May, and in Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed both the medical marijuana law and a marijuana decriminalization law just this last Monday. In addition, the D.C. Council approved one of the best decriminalization bills in the country but because of the unjust way Congress has control over all local laws in the district it will not go into effect until the 60-day Congressional review period is over.

Industrial Hemp

Finally, also worth mentioning is that this past February the federal government finally took a baby step towards allowing American farmers to grow hemp again. Included in the farm bill was a provision that allows the creation of pilot programs in ten states to grow industrial hemp for research purposes.

This year I also publish my book After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy. To celebrate 4/20 the ebook version is on sale for $1.99 until Monday.

New Approach Oregon Begins Gathering Signatures for 2014 Pot Legalization Initiative

By: Friday April 18, 2014 8:58 am

New Approach Oregon can begin gathering signatures this Thursday

The well funded New Approach Oregon campaign was finally able to begin gathering signatures this Thursday to get their marijuana legalization initiative on the 2014 November ballot.

They have just under three months to gather the roughly 87,000 valid signatures if they want to qualify. While that is a short window, the campaign claims they are confident they can get it down.

The measure is roughly similar to the 2010 initiatives approved in Colorado and Washington State. It would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over and have it regulated like alcohol. Oversight of the licensing of recreational marijuana growers and stores would be under the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

The law would permit limited home growing and give municipalities the ability to vote on banning local marijuana businesses.

It is not the only legalization initiative trying to get on the ballot. In addition, the people behind the failed 2012 initiative are gathering signatures for two measures. One would simply amend the state constitution to say adults can possess and produce marijuana subject to state regulation. The other is an initiative which legalizes marijuana creating specific rules for its regulation and taxation. While this new version of the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act is similar to the initiative that lost in 2012, some changes were made to address the most common criticisms of the previous effort.

Overwhelming Support for Medical Marijuana in Key Presidential Swing States

By: Friday April 18, 2014 7:55 am

It can not be highlighted enough just how huge the disconnect is between regular voters and federal politicians on marijuana. Quinnipiac polling just tweeted this graph of their recent state medical marijuana poll. From Qunnipiac:

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In the top swing states of Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Iowa over 80 percent of voters back allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana. It is possibly the least controversial policy issue that has not yet been adopted.

It should be considered unacceptable for any presidential candidate in 2016 to not at least support changing federal law to allow medical marijuana.

Alaska Pot Legalization Campaign Will Donate to Opponents if They Can Prove Alcohol Is Less Harmful Than Pot

By: Thursday April 17, 2014 11:03 am

Obviously, the legalization campaign is in no danger of losing the money. The scientific research is clear on the relative danger of alcohol and marijuana use.

This is one of the better political stuns I’ve heard about in a long time. The Alaska marijuana legalization ballot initiative campaign promised to donate to their opponent’s campaign if they can prove alcohol is safer than pot. From the Alaska Dispatch:

In a Wednesday morning press conference, supporters of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska stood outside a downtown Anchorage office building with a giant novelty check written out to “No on 2/ Project S.A.M.” for $9,015 — the same amount of money the alcohol lobby donated to former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy during his time in office. Kennedy is the co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a national group that opposes marijuana legalization.

The event served as a challenge to opponents of the Alaska measure — a group collectively known as “Big Marijuana. Big Mistake. Vote No On 2″– to show the public the science proving that marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol.

Obviously, the legalization campaign is in no danger of losing the money. The scientific research is clear on the relative danger of alcohol and marijuana use. And Americans are quickly coming to understand this. The latest Pew poll found 69 percent think alcohol is more dangerous to an individual’s health than pot, while only 15 percent see pot as more dangerous that alcohol.

This “marijuana is safer” message proved to be very effective in Colorado during their 2012 legalization campaign and it should be a big focus in Alaska this year as well.

 Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy. The ebook is on sale for $1.99 his week in celebration of 4/20.

The Unusual Way This 4/20 Will Shape the Future of Marijuana Legalization

By: Wednesday April 16, 2014 11:49 am

If the Alaska legislative session doesn’t end by 4/20 the marijuana ballot measure moves to the general election in November

This April 20th will have a real impact on the future of marijuana legalization in the United States, and it has nothing to do with the pro-pot celebration taking place that day.

At issue is the Alaska marijuana legalization initiative. Currently it is set to appear on the primary ballot this August 19th, but under Alaska law if the state legislative session doesn’t conclude 120 days before the primary date the initiatives must be moved back to the November general election ballot.

The cutoff is the scheduled end of this current session on Sunday, which just happens to be 4/20. At the moment it looks like the legislature may not finish by 4/20. If they end up going into extended session the vote on the legalization initiative will be delayed until November.

On the positive side, having the initiative moved to the November ballot should potentially help it do slightly better, which could theoretically make a difference since the polling shows the issue is fairly close. Recent polling found 52 percent support the measure while 44 percent oppose it. Young voters tend to make up a greater percentage of the general election turnout and they overwhelmingly back legalization.

From a national messaging perspective, though, having the initiative bumped off the August ballot would be slightly disappointing. An August victory would likely receive much more national coverage. It would have been one of the only big anticipated national political stories that month, compared to November when it could be buried by senate and gubernatorial election results.

Spreading out the initiative might also create a greater sense of momentum among the public. In addition having the measure on the August ballot would be a unique opportunity to test legalization’s ability to drive youth turnout. That could be a helpful piece of data for convincing politicians that supporting marijuana reform is a smart political move.

Whether it ends up on the August ballot or the November ballot Alaska will likely legalize marijuana in the near future.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy. The ebook is on sale for $1.99 this week.

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