On Tuesday, cannabis has been legalized through majority vote in the states of Oregon, Alaska and the District. Through this voting, it becomes obvious that people in the US are in favor of the decriminalization processes being carried out in Washington and Colorado. Such experiments have created the possibilities for cannabis to be used for recreational purposes. A similar kind of legalization has been witnessed in the state of Florida. However, it fell little short of the required majority of sixty percent.
The success of the marijuana legalization program is important particularly in the context of the midterm polls which involve great structural benefits for the Republicans. It is to be noted that the contribution of the youth in the support of the program with ages from 18 to 29 has decreased from 19 percent in 2012 to 13 percent in 2014. In an email, Tom Angell, a supporter of the Marijuana Majority advocacy campaign said that the present developments indicate the success of the marijuana decriminalization process even in the midterm polls. He went on that during the presidential elections of 2016, many more states will move for constitutional amendments in favor of marijuana usage.
Among the red states, Alaska enjoys the distinction of being first one to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. In this way, the ambiguity about the conflicting cannabis regulations in Alaska gets removed. In the state, the exit polls fetching 52 votes in favor indicate that the initiative got support from every age group excluding those with ages over 65. At the same time, it can be seen that the Republicans supporting the program are just 30 percent against the 76 percent Democrats who are on the forefront. The independents from Alaska favoring the bill are in overwhelming majority, i.e. 58 percent.
The same trend of partisan divide can be witnessed in the voting process in Oregon. If you look at the political support for cannabis decriminalization program, at national level, it is found that the Republicans account for 40%. With these statistics, it becomes obvious that the cross party agreement on cannabis legalization is relatively broad when seen against the issue of gay marriage. In the latter case, the support from Republicans at national level was just 31 percent.
In a statement issued by Ethan Nadelmann from the Drug Policy Alliance, it was said that cannabis decriminalization bill no more remains a liberal issue rather it assumes a bipartisan and conservative status. He added that the current congressional tenure has witnessed the passage of many drug policy bills. In an interview, he has been reported as saying that John Boehner’s voting policies are suggestive of the bipartisan support in favor of the bill.
In the preview of the 2016 presidential elections, the supporters of marijuana legalization initiative are seen as claiming great impetus. Meanwhile, attempts are being made for this cause in Massachusetts, Arizona, Nevada, Maine and California. Angell is of the view that the votes going in favor of the program are already in majority, while legislation to this end is also expected in many parts of the country. As far the states of Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maryland and Delaware are concerned, the primary focus of the Marijuana Policy Project is legislation.
At the polls where Democrats have to meet with defeat, the Democratic policy makers will see that the program fetches support of the majority. If you take the example of Alaska, Mark Begich, the incumbent Democratic Senator, went against the marijuana bill but it was still passed. So, the Democrats are expected to make necessary changes in their strategy.
Nadelmann says that the Democrats are expected to put cannabis decriminalization side by side with the policy of minimum wage on the ballot. Florida is considered to be a key constituency of Democrats. Here the exit polls, in the initial stages, lead to the view that the number of supporters from the age group of 18 to 29 will be increased.
Having seen that marijuana bill in Florida fell little short of required votes, John Hudak of Brookings Institution analyzes that the success of the program will depend on many things. He adds that in Florida, the situations are often not easy to predict. However, the polls outcomes in this state will inspire changes in the pre-poll strategies in other states. Hudak further added that the proponents of cannabis legalization would have come to realize the effectiveness of their plans.
After having utilized a significant portion of their resources in this round of elections, the decriminalization opponents are devising their future strategies. Kevin Sabet of Project SAM said, in a statement, that from now onwards they will put even more energy to their efforts. Through an email message, he said that they are striving to pave the way for future success by convincing the philanthropists. From the past experience, they have realized that if the public at large don’t give a heed to the plans, the endorsements on the editorial and political fronts count little.
Sabet expressed the determination that they will make utmost efforts to spread awareness among the Americans about the hazards of cannabis and prevalence of the corporate-like industry. He was sure that their opponents will have to face defeat on legal fronts, which however may take some time.
It was of some comfort for the opponents of cannabis bill when five municipalities voted for putting a ban on the marijuana industry in the local polls in Colorado. At the same time, people seem curious about knowing whether the 114th Congress, led by the Republicans, will follow the trend seen in the 113th Congress concerning the drug policies.
With 69% of people voting in favor of cannabis legalization in D.C., it appears to be an area of conflict. On one hand, the D.C. city council has to make plans to launch marijuana industry while, on the other, Congress may pose hindrance to balloting and the legislation. Though the mandate from D.C. is backed by seventy percent voters, there doesn’t appear to be a possibility that the next Congress will adopt a different strategy on drug reforms than the one followed by its predecessor.
The US capital is considered to be hub of the Drug Enforcement Administration and is known for its war on drugs. The cannabis decriminalization move here is not of minor significance—it will serve as precedence for the rest of the nation. However, the recent poll outcomes will have a global impact. In 2012, the successful marijuana legalization process in Colorado and Washington served as a source of thought for other countries in the world to reconsider their drug policies.
Nadelmann has been reported as saying that legalization move in Colorado and Washington is not just a chance happening as the same trend is obvious from voting in DC, Alaska and Oregon. The Americans will not be changing their mind on this issue. Consequently, against the prevailing trend during the preceding 70 years, the stance of the US on drug policy will sound much different in the international scenario.