Breaking Down the 2014 Election, and What it Means for the Future of Cannabis Law Reform
It’s officially the day after the 2014 election, and although there were some tough defeats – namely Florida – the overall results were a huge victory for the cannabis reform movement, with two more states, plus the U.S. Capitol, legalizing cannabis.
In Oregon, voters gave approval to Measure 91, a proposal which will legalize the possession of up to eight ounces of cannabis, a limit that’s eight times higher than that of Washington and Colorado. The initiative will also allow everyone 21 and older to cultivate up to four plants, and purchase cannabis from state-licensed outlets, which should be open by 2016. This initiative proves that a possession limit far above the standard one-ounce certainly isn’t a deal-breaker for voters. It also demonstrates – as with Alaska and Colorado – that voters are undeniably comfortable with allowing for the private cultivation of cannabis, and not just its possession and sale.
In Alaska, Ballot Measure 2 was approved with 52% of the vote. This initiative legalizes the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis, as well as the private cultivation of up to six plants. The proposal also allows for cannabis retail outlets. Alaska voters tend to lean in a different political direction than those in Oregon (not always, of course), yet the two initiatives were approved with similar support, indicating that cannabis legalization is continually becoming a bipartisan issue that’s supported by all ideologies.
In Washington D.C., the Capitol of the United States, voters approved Initiative 71. Once it takes effect – after a 30-day congressional review period – the proposal will legalize the possession of up to two ounces of cannabis for those 21 and older, in addition to allowing for the private cultivation of up to six plants. Although the initiative doesn’t allow for cannabis retail outlets, the district’s Council is currently considering legislation to change that.
In California, voters approved Proposition 47, a proposal which removes felony charges for numerous nonviolent crimes such as drug possession and petty theft. The initiative, which will free up prison state and save the state hundreds of millions of dollars annually, was approved with 57% of the vote, showing that voters – at least in California – are ready for strong reformations of the criminal justice system.
In Florida, Amendment 2 was unfortunately defeated at the ballot, failing to garner the 60% required to be passed into law, given it’s a constitutional amendment. However, the proposal did garner 58% of the vote, making it undeniably clear that Florida voters support the legalization of medical cannabis. United for Care, the organization behind the effort, has already vowed to try again in 2016 if the state’s legislature doesn’t act in the next session.
In Michigan, voters gave approval to cannabis decriminalization initiatives in the cities of Saginaw, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge, Port Huron, Mount Pleasant and Berkley. These initiatives remove criminal penalties within the city for the possession, use and transfer of up to an ounce of cannabis. Unfortunately similar initiatives were voted down in Clare, Frankford, Harrison, Lapeer and Onaway, indicating that there’s still some work to be done in Michigan.
In Maine, voters in South Portland passed an initiative to legalize up to an ounce of cannabis, joining Portland which approved a similar initiative last year. Sadly, a legalization initiative was rejected in Lewiston.
Overall, the 2014 election was a massive win for the movement to end cannabis prohibition. Four states plus the District of Columbia have legalized recreational cannabis in just a two-year span, and advocates are aiming to greatly expand that number in 2016. The impact yesterday’s election will have on these and future efforts can’t be determined now, but one thing is clear; if activists continue to do what they do – working to educate the public and change laws – before long, cannabis prohibition will be nothing but a bitter memory.