Marijuana on the ballot in Alaska, D.C., Florida, Oregon and Maine

Marijuana on the ballot in Alaska, D.C., Florida, Oregon and Maine

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WASHINGTON, November 3, 2014 — Decriminalization, medical marijuana legalization and general marijuana legalization remain hot-topic issues in the U.S.

Currently 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana and two states allow recreational marijuana states. Several states with legal medical marijuana also have decriminalized recreational marijuana use, and some states have decriminalized marijuana possession but not allowed medical marijuana.

This midterm, Alaska, D.C., Florida, Oregon and Maine will vote on changes to their existing marijuana laws.

Alaska will vote on whether to legalize recreational use. Alaska legalized medical marijuana in 1998, and has decriminalized personal marijuana use. The new measure would allow retail sales of marijuana and allow the state to tax and regulate marijuana sales. Adults over 21 would be allowed to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and up to six plants. Possession of marijuana paraphernalia would also be legal.  Four polls between May 2014 and October 2014 showed that on average, 48.05% support the bill while 46.43% oppose and 5.8% are undecided.

Washington, DC residents are likely to pass initiative 71, which would allow adults over 21 to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana and to cultivate up to six plants. Medical marijuana is already legal in D.C., and decriminalization made possession a civil violation rather than a criminal violation, carrying at $25 fine.

However, pundits warn that if Initiative 71 passes, it will set up a major fight with the federal government. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and there is likely to be a backlash against legalizing the drug in the nations capital.

Although polls show that a majority of Floridians support medical marijuana, the vote requires a change to the constitution, which would need 60% support, making passage uncertain. Republican governor Rick Scott approved a bill effectively legalizing “Charlotte’s Web,” a strain of cannibis without psychoactive ingredients, to tret epilepsy, but opposes medical marijuana. His opponent in the mud-slinging governor’s race, Charlie Christ, supports it. Moreover, major billionaires have dumped massive funding into both sides of the issue. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson spent $5 million against the measure, while attorney John Morgan spent about $4 million supporting it.

A day before the vote, the Florida outcome is too close to call.

Two Maine cities are voting whether to follow the lead of Portland in legalizing recreational marijuana. Lewiston, Maine and South Portland, Maine are expected to pass bills that will essentially allow adults over 21 to possess up to 2.5 ounces.

Oregon, which failed to pass legalized marijuana laws in 2012, is expected to pass “controlled legalization” this time, although the vote is still likely to be close. The measure would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana at home and one ounce in public. The state, through the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, would regulate and monitor the marijuana industry. Taxes from the sale of marijuana would go toward law enforcement, schools and drug education.

One of the biggest watchers of the Oregon vote is Washington, where recreational marijuana is already legal. The marijuana business in that state is concerned that high supply and low prices in Oregon could undercut the Washington industry if the measure passes.

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Lisa M. Ruth
Lisa M. Ruth is Editor-in-Chief of CDN. In addition to her editing and leadership duties, she also writes on international events, intelligence, and other topics. She has worked with CDN as a journalist since 2009. Lisa is also President of CTC International Group, Inc., a research and analysis firm in South Florida, providing actionable intelligence to decisionmakers. She started her career at the CIA, where she won several distinguished awards for her service. She holds an MA in international relations from the University of Virginia, and a BA in international relations from George Mason University. She also serves as Chairman of the Board of Horses Healing Hearts, and is involved with several other charitable organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and AYSO.