Colorado isn't the only state with pot in the voting booths this year. The Pacific Northwest has also become a cannabis-friendly haven over the last few decades, and ballot measures in both Washington and Oregon contain legalization proposals.
If passed, Washington's Initiative 502 would make it legal for adults 21 and over to possess and use up to one ounce of buds, sixteen ounces of solid marijuana edibles and 72 ounces of liquids, such as tinctures and, presumably, hash oil. As with Colorado's Amendment 64, the proposal would charge an existing state office with managing the new, legal pot industry. Tax revenue generated would go toward public health care and substance-abuse clinics. The measure is currently polling well, with some pollsters predicting it will get 54 percent of the vote.
That's not so surprising, though, when you see how much money pro-502 folks have spent to get the word out.
By late October, New Approach Washington had raised nearly $5.7 million -- considerably more money than had Amendment 64's proponents. The largest portion of that sum (more than $2 million) came from Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis, who was arrested over a decade ago for pot possession on a trip to New Zealand and has since become a major supporter of groups like the Marijuana Policy Project. The national Drug Policy Alliance donated another $1.6 million, and well-known travel-book author Rick Steves shipped in a quarter-million.
The two officially registered anti-502 campaigns, on the other hand, had only raised about $16,200 by the end of October, according to campaign finance reports. Included in that figure is more than $9,000 from Washington medical marijuana center owners and attorneys who say they oppose the proposal because of what it doesn't do. If passed, for example, it would not permit personal gardens. Medical patients could still grow their own, but recreational users would have to purchase their herb from a store.
But for many pot proponents, like Sensible Washington, the biggest problem with 502 is that it would lock the state's driving-under-the influence-of-marijuana limits at .5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. That's the same level Colorado lawmakers have unsuccessfully tried to pass twice in the last two years. Opposition both times (and in Washington) comes primarily from medical marijuana patients, who point out that they develop tolerances and have higher residual levels build up in their systems over time.
Westword proved that to be the case two years ago by sending me in for blood work more than twelve hours and a night's sleep after I had last smoked. Despite being deemed sober by a doctor, I tested at nearly three times the proposed limit. Colorado activists like The Colorado Alliance for Regulation and Education have the same concerns about Amendment 64, which says that driving under the influence of marijuana "shall remain illegal" if passed.
Continue to read more about marijuana proposals in Washington and Oregon. Oregon's Initiative 80, also dubbed the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act 2012, is probably the least publicized cannabis measure on the November 6 ballot. It's also the most unlikely to win. That could be partly because of all the proclamatory language in the first section, before the actual meat of the proposal. The authors spend more than 1,000 words praising the wonders and benefits of hemp, condemning "federal and corporate misinformation campaigns," detailing the history of our hemp-growing founding fathers, declaring marijuana to be Oregon's largest cash crop, pointing to laws and findings in states like Alaska and Michigan, and decrying the disparities in the ways marijuana users are treated as compared to those who drink alcohol. It's all great information, but borders on rambling, stoned hippie-isms at times too.
The initiative's author is Paul Stanford of Portland, who allegedly made millions licensing medical marijuana patients in Oregon through his Hemp and Cannabis Foundation. According to Stanford, the proposal is a "scientific experiment" in legalization and decriminalization that removes and repeals all of the state's laws dealing with cannabis and starts fresh with new laws about selling to minors, unlicensed cultivation and exporting. Initiative 80 would create a state-run cannabis commission to regulate the new industry. Stores would be licensed to open as early as February 28, 2013. Personal cultivation and use would not require any permits.
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Like the Colorado and Washington proposals, 80 would only apply to adults 21 and over. Unlike those other two proposals, however, Oregon's would not set limits on how much a person can cultivate or possess -- although a state-run commission could impose limits on cultivation and possession if it saw fit. The measure also tasks the commission with ensuring testing and labeling for potency, as well as making sure the herb is grown to food-grade standards. The proposal would not supersede any current laws related to DWI offenses.
Willie Nelson has given Initiative 80 his personal approval, and the campaign definitely has the best catch-phrases: "Because drug dealers don't ask for ID," "Your choice: Cops can chase pot smokers or criminals" and "You don't need to inhale. You just need common sense." But that's about all the campaign has. Unlike the Colorado and Washington proposals, the Oregon ballot measure hasn't inspired a flood of national marijuana money -- or much money at all, for that matter. Stanford reportedly blew through a large portion of his funding in signature-gathering; at the start of October, his group had under $2,000 to work with.
National organizations such as NORML say that one reason Oregon hasn't seen much out-of-state money is because of the focus on Washington and Colorado. Initiative 80 was also the last of the three to make its state ballot. And even though Oregon is a very cannabis-friendly state, Initiative 80 hasn't been polling well; by the most recent count, only about 40 percent of voters were in favor of the measure.