Pot Measures in Washington, D.C., Alaska and Oregon Follow Colorado's Lead
Colorado and Washington might get some company next week. Marijuana legalization initiatives are on the ballots in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., and the proposals all strongly resemble what Colorado voters approved in 2012.
Oregon's Measure 91 would legalize the possession of up to eight ounces of pot and the cultivation of up to four plants at a time for adults 21 and up; cannabis could be sold at the retail level, and it would be taxed $35 per ounce wholesale. In mid-October, Oregon Public Broadcasting research showed that only 43 percent of voters were opposed to the proposal. And, as in Colorado, individual municipalities in Oregon would have the ability to ban marijuana businesses.
D.C.'s Initiative 71 would make the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana in public legal for adults 21 and up. Those same adults could also grow up to six plants in their home, with three in flower, and sales through authorized retail outlets would also be allowed. The measure has no tax provisions because of D.C. law, but city council members there say they're ready to iron out those issues if the proposal passes. And unless something major happens in the next week, the measure's passage looks like a lock: Last month, according to the Washington Post, as much as 65 percent of the electorate was planning to vote yes. The proposal is particularly notable because it would have to get the go-ahead from the U.S. Congress, which oversees D.C.; lawmakers could vote to approve the measure, deny it, or simply ignore it for a sixty-day period and let it pass into law.
In Alaska, Measure 2 would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of pot at a time and grow as many as six plants (only three in flower at a time), and growers could keep all they harvest as long as it stays at their home. The bill would also allow for legal recreational dispensaries, with tax revenue going to the state. But only about 22 percent of pot smokers would purchase their herb from Alaska storefronts, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, which helped craft the language of Measure 2. Due to the strong likelihood of Alaskans growing for themselves, MMP predicts that total tax collections on recreational marijuana wouldn't go over $7 million annually. But MPP researchers also say they're being conservative with those figures, mostly because Colorado tax revenue hasn't been as high as initially forecast. "Previous studies incorrectly assume that all demand will quickly shift to regulated markets," their report reads. "In our experience, such assumptions are naive."
They also point out that high prices in Colorado have kept a black market thriving: "If retail prices increase significantly, then most heavy users will avoid this supply mode and buy marijuana from black- or gray-market sources as possible."
This is the third time since 2000 that a legalization measure has come before voters in Alaska, and it might not be the last. Polling by Alaska Dispatch News has been mixed, with as many as 57 percent of voters supporting the proposal on some days and as few as 47 percent on others.
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