Weed is Going to Win Big in November [FEATURE]

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

A month out from Election Day, it's looking like marijuana legalization is going to be a big winner. Initiatives are on the ballot in five states, including California, and all indications are that they are going to pass in all of them, with one possible exception.

In what is the closest thing ever to a national referendum on weed, states on the West Coast, in the Southwest, and in New England with a total of more than 55 million residents will be rendering their verdict. That's about one-sixth of the national population.

The four states that have already legalized marijuana -- Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington -- have about 17 ½ million residents. Even if California were the only state to see a victorious legalization initiative -- and it very likely won't be -- victory there would triple the number of people living in pot-legal states. A clean sweep would quadruple it.

Nationally, attitudes toward marijuana have undergone a sea change in recent years. Gallup's annual polls show that only a decade ago, support for legalization was at a mere 36%. But by 2012, when Colorado and Washington voted to legalize it, nationwide support had climbed to 50%, and by 2014, when Alaska and Oregon (and Washington, DC) followed suit, it was at 58%. It blipped down last year in the Gallup poll, but this year, it's back to 58% again.

The national polls are encouraging, but just as in the presidential race, they don't really matter when it comes to the nitty-gritty of winning state-level elections. What does matter are the state level polls, and at this point, they're looking pretty damned good for legal weed.

And a good November for marijuana legalization could be the turning point on the path toward ending federal marijuana prohibition. Championing an end to federal pot prohibition has been a lonely stance so far -- thanks, Bernie Sanders! -- but with more states, and especially California, set to go legal next month, the next Congress is going to have a considerable contingent of members whose constituents have already embraced legalization.

Now, the votes haven't been cast yet, there are opposition campaigns of varying strength in the different states, and there are untoward surprises that could happen -- say, a teenager on pot runs over a bunch of school kids -- but as we enter the final weeks of the campaign season, it's increasingly looking like weed is going to win big.

Here's the state-by-state rundown:

Arizona

This is the tightest race, with the Prop 205 legalization initiative leading by 10 points, but only hitting 50% in an August Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll. Other recent polls have showed the initiative narrowly losing. Voters in this red state approved medical marijuana in 2010, but only by the narrowest of margins. If legalization can pass in Arizona this year, that will be a real sign that support for prohibition is crumbling.

Still, the initiative faces a vigorous and well-funded opposition campaign led by state officials, and it has more money in the bank right now than the pro-legalization forces. The Prop 205 campaign has raised more money than the opposition ($3.2 million versus $2 million), but the opposition still has $1.4 million to do damage, while the legalizers only have $170,000 in cash on hand.

California

The Big Enchilada is ready to pop out of the oven. California tried to be first out of the gate with 2010's Prop 19, but it came up just a few points short. This time will be different. Polls this year have consistently shown support for the Prop 64 legalization initiative at over 50% and mostly in the upper fifties. The latest poll, a September survey from the Public Policy Institute of California, had support at 60%. An August poll that did not ask specifically about Prop 64 but asked whether respondents believed "marijuana should be legal for adults to purchase and use recreationally" garnered 64% support.

Support for legalization has gone mainstream in California, with the initiative campaign fronted by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), endorsed by the state Democratic Party (among many others), several sitting US representatives, and leading newspapers in the state, including the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.

And the initiative campaign has big, big bucks. Yes on 64 has raised more than $20 million, including more than $7 million from tech billionaire and philanthropist Sean Parker and has a war chest of more than $14 million. The campaign has committed nearly $7 million to campaign TV ads that began airing last week, and that leaves a big, fat bankroll for any last minute expenditures. The opposition, on the other hand, has raised only a fraction as much money, mainly from law enforcement groups and conservative philanthropists.

The Golden State is going green next month.

Maine

New England aims to become the first region outside the West to embrace legal weed, and it's looking like Maine's Question 1 legalization initiative will help lead the charge. A March poll had support at 54%, while a Portland Press Herald poll two weeks ago had it at 53%. Only 38% were opposed, and the number of undecideds is smaller than the gap between "yes" and "no" votes.

There is virtually no organized opposition, nor any sign of opposition fundraising. And the Question 1 campaign had $1.7 million in the bank last month. That's plenty of money for last-minute ad buys in a small-market state.

Massachusetts

The Bay State is the second New England state poised to go green this year, with the Question 4 legalization initiative polling at 53% in a new WBZ-TV/ UMass Amherst poll. Only 40% were opposed. Voting for marijuana reform is nothing new for Massachusetts residents: A series of non-binding district level public policy questions on pot law reform has won an unbroken string of victories since 2002 and voters approved both medical marijuana (2008) and decriminalization (2012) by nearly two-to-one margins.

Support for marijuana reform has typically outpaced the polls. When, for instance, voters approved medical marijuana with 63% of the vote in 2012, the last polls before election day had it only at 58%.

There is a serious bipartisan organized opposition campaign underway that includes both Gov. Charlie Baker (R) and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D), along with the usual suspects in law enforcement and some of the medical establishment. The opposition has been up to some dirty dealing and is getting some support from local alcohol interests.

There is some cause for concern with the state of campaign finances, though. While the pro-legalization side has out-fundraised the opposition by a wide margin -- $2.4 million to $363,000 -- the opposition still has $320,000 in the bank, while legalizers had only $22,000 left in mid-September. That could mean a late onslaught of unanswered attack ads.

Nevada

Just across the Sierra Nevada from California, the Silver State looks to be catching green fever, too. The Question 2 legalization initiative appears to be pulling away. Earlier polls had support hovering around 50%, but a KTNV/Rasmussen Reports poll last month had support at 53%, and the most recent poll, just two weeks ago from Suffolk University, had support rising to 57%, with only 33% opposed. That's a huge gap.

Organized opposition has been all but invisible, with No on 2 campaigns reporting having received only $30,000 by mid-summer. That could have changed since then, but there is no sign of any big cash infusions by the opposition side. Conservative Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal and managed to flip its editorial stance from "pro" to "con" earlier this year, but even the state's largest newspaper doesn't seem to carry enough weight to defeat legalization.

Meanwhile, the Yes on 2 campaign has raised over a million dollars, locked in $900,000 in TV ad buys back in June, has billboards up, and is ready to hit the airwaves in these final weeks.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Still nothing in the south

Still nothing in the south east... Not even near it. The disappointment rumbles on.

Southern resistance to change

The SE US has long been dominated by fundamentalist religious types and a general lower level of education than more progressive and educated states like the NE and Western states. As long as the population in the south is under the thumb of backward uneducated religious types, there will be no change.

borden's picture

There's medical marijuana in

There's medical marijuana in Florida this year, if that counts for the south, favored to pass.

Arkansas also has medical on the ballot, and it may have a chance, but after one good initiative got on the ballot, a different group of people proceeded to put a second medical initiative on the ballot at the same time, a bad decision that likely has doomed the prospects for both. But we'll keep hope.

southeast

Nothing stirring in the southeast for the same reason as nothing stirring in NY and NJ - no ballot initiative process south of Mass. until you get all the way down to Florida.

 

Also Phil neglected to mention that Washington DC is the actually first territory in the east - and the southeast - to legalize cannabis.   And District of Columbia holds the bragging rights to the highest margin of victory ever on a cannabis initiative at 70%, a mark that may never be equaled by another state.

btw.....

Don't move out of Dixie just yet, I suspect at some point the Judiciary will come to the rescue as it did for gay marriage.  Might take a while longer though, the south is likely to fight hard to maintain its Apartheid system, er, War on "Drugs".....

Makes one wonder though, as

Makes one wonder though, as far as California, the huge percentage of Dems that are in Public jobs and will have a large percentage of the voting Pro, they will not be allowed to have any in their bloodstream as a public worker under the standard employment contracts. As there are no national guidelines to 'recent use' in testing approved, that will have to change and I don't see the ONDCP allowing any approved testing for recent use.

No 'recent use test', no possible insuring employees and no limiting risk in the insurer plans.. nobody gets to escape the penalty of use, not recent, in any job when tested.

WikiLeaks: Clinton Told Wall St. She Is 100% Against Legalizing

WikiLeaks: Clinton Told Wall St. She Is 100% Against Legalizing Cannabis

 

http://yournewswire.com/wikileaks-clinton-wall-street-cannabis/

Massachusetts

Great writing and article Phil, couple of slight inaccuracies on the Mass. campaign.   The nonbinding local referenda campaign began in 2000, not 2002:

http://electionstats.state.ma.us/ballot_questions/search/year_from:1976/year_to:2014/text:marijuana/type

Also the Yes on 4 campaign has barely begun to spend its money, not the other way around.  They just made the very first ad buy of $650,000 last week.  I believe the extra $2.4 million is not showing up because it's from a PAC?  Trust me, the campaign spent virtually nothing before 10/1/16.  Just around $500K on signatures and staffing expenses.  No worries!  The Yes on 4 ad campaign is just getting underway up here, the opposition campaign will be massively out-spent in the 3 weeks.  I'm sure the campaign manager Will Luzier would be happy to fill in the details for you.

Your Presidential Vote Depends on What Happens

 

 

 

https://www.greenrushdaily.com/2016/10/11/leaked-emails-hillary-clinton-marijuana/

A VOTE FOR HILLARY MEANS ALL MARIJUANA LAWS will be obsolete She Want's FULL CONTROL!

Has already cut deals with alcohol companies to BAN COMPLETELY!!!

 

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/09/29/chelsea-clinton-suggested-that-marijuana-has-the-ability-to-kill/

Chelsea is already trying to convince the masses that Marijuana kills!

 

 

You must get out and VOTE to stop her!!!!!!

 

Donald J. Trump = Keep those decisions away from US Government "Let people decide"

Gary Johnson = Somewhat regulated state / government equal partnership decision

Jill Stein = supports legalization in 50 states

Prop 64 is going to suck

It's a shame that sean parker pushed the most screwed-up of the initiatives to back, but with that guy you couldn't really expect much else.  Prop 64 is going to cause a lot more problems than it will solve, while giving full employment to cops and lawyers, and that's a pity.  What we need in CA is a simple law (that protects everyone - particularly in the more hick areas of the State) like that which was passed in OR.  I am still hopeful people will reject this poorly-written proposal ala' Ohio, and force the corporatists back to the drawing board.

Wait--What?!

You do know that Oregon only allows four plants for a personal grow—vs six under Prop 64—and no more than eight ounces in possession at home, whereas Prop 64 allows you to possess at home all you can grow, right?  Measure 91 also makes no provision for personal use businesses, like dab bars, as Prop 64 specifically does; this is better how, exactly?  Unlike Prop 64, Measure 91 has no commercial license or canopy limits; you were saying something about “corporatists”?  We are talking about the same Oregon, aren’t we … ?! We’ve waited around for twenty years while you lot didn’t even get your “simple law” on the ballot, and Richard Lee proved that you could have, had you really wanted to.  The only people for whom Prop 64 “is going to cause a lot more problems than it will solve” and "suck" are the people you’re siding with: cops, corporate prisons, rehab, and pharma, whose contemptible tactics rooted in fear and disinformation you’ve likewise adopted.

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