Two states plus Washington D.C. can follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington state by voting in favor of fully legalizing marijuana with ballot initiatives, this mid-term election cycle. The states that have decided to have their electorate vote on ballot measures this time around are: Alaska, Oregon, and Florida.
Ahead of a historic trip to the Arctic, President Barack Obama erased a former Republican president's name from North America's tallest peak in a move applauded in Alaska and derided more than 3,000 miles away in Ohio. More contentious matters concerning climate change and Arctic drilling awaited. Obama departed Monday morning to Anchorage for the start of a three-day visit, bringing the American leader up close to shrinking glaciers, Arctic temperatures and a mix of messy energy politics. His tour of the nation's largest state is closely choreographed to call attention to the ways Obama says climate change is already damaging Alaska's stunning scenery.
Gov. Bill Walker has signed into law legislation creating a new board to regulate the legal marijuana industry in Alaska. Voters last November approved an initiative legalizing recreational use of pot for those 21 years of age and older. The initiative delegated rulemaking for the industry to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board unless the Legislature created a new Marijuana Control Board. Walker this week signed into law a bill he introduced creating the new board.
Earlier this winter, Monica Zappa packed up her crew of Alaskan sled dogs and headed south, in search of snow. “We haven’t been able to train where we live for two months,” she told me. Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, which Zappa calls home, has been practically tropical this winter. Rick Thoman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Alaska, has been dumbfounded. “Homer, Alaska, keeps setting record after record, and I keep looking at the data like, Has the temperature sensor gone out or something?“ Something does seem to be going on in Alaska. Last fall, a skipjack tuna, which is more likely to be found in the Galápagos than near a glacier, was caught about 150 miles southeast of Anchorage, not far from the Kenai.
On Tuesday, Alaska became the first red state to legally allow the possession, gifting, and growing of marijuana. The legal change comes after Alaska voters in November approved a ballot initiative that fully legalized marijuana in the northernmost state. Alaska is the third state to legalize the drug after Colorado and Washington. Oregon and Washington, DC, will follow later this year. As of Tuesday, Alaska's Ballot Measure 2 lets adults 21 and older possess up to one ounce of pot, maintain six marijuana plants, and gift and transport the drug. Smoking in public remains prohibited.
Alaska's voter initiative making marijuana legal takes effect Tuesday, placing Alaska alongside Colorado and Washington as the three U.S. states where recreational marijuana is legal. The new law means people over age 21 can consume small amounts of pot — if they can find it. It's still illegal to sell marijuana. "You can still give people marijuana, but you can't buy it — or even barter for it," Alaska Public Media's Alexandra Gutierrez reports. "So, it's a pretty legally awkward spot. That probably won't stop people from acquiring it, though." The ballot measure that was adopted in November allows Alaskans to possess marijuana harvested from up to six plants on private property. For now, that's the biggest change in the state's pot practices.
Citizens voted this year to legalize recreational cannabis, but the history of legal weed in the Last Frontier goes back to a bold move by lawyer Irwin Ravin in 1972.
President Obama lost his mandate to govern Tuesday, as his party ceded control of the Senate and additional seats in the House. For partisans who obsess over the ups and downs of every election cycle, that makes Democrats seem like the biggest losers in the midterms, though they could realistically regain the Senate in 2016. Indisputably, the Democrats had a terrible night. But the 2014 losers least likely to regain ground in future elections are marijuana prohibitionists. Oregon and Alaska just became the third and fourth states to legalize the drug. Washington, D.C., voted for legalization, as did the city of South Portland, Maine. The island territory of Guam chose to allow medicinal marijuana.
Two states — Oregon and Alaska — and Washington, D.C., are voting Tuesday on ballot measures to legalize marijuana. Florida is voting to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. On the heels of successful legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington state in 2012, activists are hoping to pick up at least one win in a tougher year — there are midterm elections rather than a presidential election. The voting blocs most sympathetic to marijuana legalization — younger voters and people of color — turn out less for these off-year elections than for presidential fights. Still, Florida and Alaska have high-profile statewide offices up for grabs in tight races — governor and senator, respectively — so it’s possible there may be some turnout advantage.
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