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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Pot: Grass-Roots Support May Not Be Enough

SEATTLE (CN) - The Nov. 4 election will likely see the District of Columbia joining Colorado and Washington state in legalizing recreational marijuana, but three other ballot measures around the nation are teetering in the polls.

Voters in Oregon and Alaska appear to be on the fence about decriminalizing pot, and Floridians are set to reject a medical marijuana initiative, according to pollsters.

In Oregon, Measure 91 is the second try for advocates who saw a legalization measure narrowly fail in 2012. Measure 91 would allow recreational marijuana use and set up licensed dispensaries, much like in Colorado and Washington.

A maximum of four plants per person would be permitted or 8 ounces per household - less than the Colorado limit of six plants per person or 12 per household, but more than the Washington allowance of two plants and 1 ounce per person. Oregon legalized medical marijuana in 1998.

The measure has prominent endorsements, including The Oregonian newspaper and U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, but recent polls show a slim majority rejecting it.

In Alaska, Ballot Measure 2 would allow possession of 1 ounce and six plants and set up state-licensed stores to sell pot.

This is the third time Alaskans will have a say in legalizing marijuana. Similar initiatives failed in 2000 and 2004. Alaska, like Oregon, approved medical marijuana in 1998.

Polls on the measure vary widely, but most show the measure narrowly losing.

Few politicians have endorsed the proposal in the Republican-heavy state and the Alaska Federation of Natives and the Anchorage Daily News came out against it. The New York Times, however, endorsed the pro-pot initiatives in Alaska, Oregon and D.C., saying "they all are worthy of passage."

Alaska's measure got national attention in September when a television reporter outed herself as the owner of a medical marijuana business she was reporting on and quit during a live shot.

In the now-viral video, Anchorage KTVA reporter Charlo Greene was discussing a dispensary when she revealed that she was the owner.

Now everything you've heard is why I, the actual owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, will be dedicating all of my energy toward fighting for freedom and fairness, which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska," she said. "And as for this job, well, not that I have a choice, but fuck it, I quit."

Greene then walked off camera and left her shocked coworker to tell viewers, "We'll be right back."

The District of Columbia has the best chance to decriminalize pot, according to the latest polls that show Initiative 71 leading.

The initiative would not allow legal sale of marijuana, but adults could possess and cultivate up to 2 ounces. The City Council approved a bill that decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot in March. The District legalized medical marijuana in 2010.

Florida voters are tackling liberalized marijuana laws with a vote on medical marijuana. State lawmakers voted this year to legalize low-potency pot to treat epilepsy and cancer patients.

Florida Amendment 2 would allow "medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician," according to the ballot.

Under Florida law, 60 percent of voters must approve the amendment before it can be made law. All polls show that's unlikely to happen Tuesday.

Although the amendment initially had strong support, opposition has ramped up rhetoric and contributions in the home stretch. Republican fund raiser and casino magnate Shelby Adelson has contributed more than $2.5 million to the "No" campaign and Gov. Rick Scott is against it. Most major Florida newspapers have endorsed the amendment.

Legalization advocates are also waging local fights, with two cities in Maine and 14 in Michigan set to vote on liberalizing pot laws.

Marijuana still remains illegal under federal law, but states are taking their own path to legalization. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana.

Only two states, Washington and Colorado, have legal recreational pot. Voters in both states passed decriminalization laws in 2012.

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