The surface area of the United States in which you can adequately and legally hold a proper Dark Side of the Moon/Wizard of Oz viewing party just got a lot bigger: Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia voted Tuesday to legalize recreational marijuana. In Alaska and Oregon, residents passed referenda that will set up regulated cannabis retail similar to the systems that voters in Colorado and Washington state approved in 2012. And D.C. voters passed Initiative 71, which legalizes the growing and possession of small amounts of marijuana but does not permit its sale. Under all of those laws, users must be 21 or older to possess pot.
Marijuana boosters can’t claim a total victory. In Florida, a measure that would have legalized medicinal marijuana earned the support of a majority of voters but failed to clear 60 percent, as required for constitutional amendments in the state. (A medicinal marijuana referendum did pass in Guam.) And in Maine, one year after Portland residents symbolically legalized the possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana, voters in South Portland also loosened possession laws, while residents of Lewiston rejected a similar ordinance. The Portland Press Herald reports:
The Lewiston and South Portland votes are seen largely as symbolic because marijuana possession remains illegal under state and federal law, and local police say enforcement won’t change. But the outcomes will serve as indicators of the state’s appetite for legalization and whether a future statewide referendum on the question might add Maine to the legalization movement.
Both the Alaska and Oregon laws will take months to go into effect. Oregon's Measure 91 "was primarily financed by out-of-state donors and groups seeking national reform of drug laws," according to the Oregonian. Already, the Washington Post reports, marijuana proponents are declaring that the win there will help them push legalization in other states.
In D.C.—a city in which black residents are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white ones, according to an American Civil Liberties Union analysis—Initiative 71 passed by a wide margin, as polls predicted it would. Like all D.C. laws, the ballot measure is subject to congressional review. While Initiative 71 is more restrictive than other legalization efforts around the country, members of the D.C. Council are working on legislation that would legalize and establish a regulatory regime for pot retail in the District. Earlier this year, House Republicans attempted—and failed, thanks to the then-Democratic-controlled Senate—to gut a D.C. law decriminalizing marijuana possession.
Not that the prospect of a fight with a fully Republican-controlled Congress harshed the celebrations of D.C. marijuana activists, whose victory party in a local bar was filled to capacity Tuesday evening. In what was perhaps a sign of marijuana’s political maturation, though, sparking up was discouraged. “We told everyone if you’re going to celebrate with cannabis, do it at home,” Initiative 71 ringleader Adam Eidinger told Washingtonian magazine. “When I get home, I’m going to smoke a joint.”