Marijuana’s legalization in the states of Colorado and Washington has made marijuana policy reform part of mainstream American politics. The issue was once only a liberal/progressive issue, but lately it had garnered support from voters associated with both parties, breaking down the barriers of partisanship.
The most telling example of marijuana becoming a nonpartisan issue is the next two states that have legal recreational marijuana on the ballot this year: Oregon and Alaska. Oregon is a heavily liberal, Democratic state which many would view as no surprise to have legal marijuana on the ballot. Alaska is mostly libertarian-Republican, which constitutes fiscally conservative politics meshed with liberal social politics.
With decriminalization and legal medical marijuana already state law, legal recreational marijuana in Oregon has taken over the majority in the state. As of mid-2013, it was predicted that only one-third of Oregon voters would oppose legal recreational marijuana in this year’s elections. In contrast, 57 percent of Oregon voters supported a tax and regulation proposal for legal marijuana. Earlier this month, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber announced his strong support for legal weed.
“I hear the drumbeats from Washington and Colorado,” he said. “I want to make sure we have a thoughtful regulatory system. The legislature would be the right place to craft that.”
In Alaska, state voters will vote on an initiative this summer whether or not to legalize recreational marijuana. Doing so would make Alaska the third state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana. This week, Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell formally certified that a petition campaign for the law gathered 36,000 signatures. The petition required 30,000 signatures.
The most perceivably unlikely state has now joined the marijuana conversation. Last month, a federal judge announced that legislation designed to legalized medical marijuana will be on the November ballot in Florida. State legislatures in the deep south have continued to stray away from marijuana reform. However, if Florida passes this law, marijuana reform could gain traction throughout the rest of the southern United States.
Quinnipiac University released a poll last November indicating that 82 percent of Florida voters support legalizing medical marijuana. Florida voters supported, with a doctor’s prescription, medical marijuana treatment for people of virtually every demographic. What’s more interesting is the amount of support medical marijuana itself has received.
Politically, Florida split evenly down the center which creates a vicious battleground every election cycle. But support for medical marijuana has come from voters free all three of the largest party affiliations. Nearly 90 percent of Florida’s Democratic voters support the legislation, as well as 88 percent of Independents, and 70 percent of Republicans. The bill needs 60 percent of the vote to become law.
Despite increased support, some are still trying to fight passage of any marijuana reform laws. Anti-marijuana reform group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana is one of the groups doing just that. “We feel that if Oregon or Alaska could be stopped, it would disrupt the whole narrative these groups have that legalization is inevitable,” said SAM Executive Director Kevin Sabet. “We could stop that momentum.”
It’s unlikely that anti-marijuana groups will experience an abundance of successful attempts. The Obama Administration and federal government have begun taking a backseat to marijuana as they are allowing that states to implement and regulate their own marijuana reform.
Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.