September 24, 2012. When Connecticut legalized marijuana this year, it became the 17th state to do so. That number may grow even more as voters head to the polls and state legislatures convene for the final sessions of the year. In all, 5 states will have ballot initiatives letting voters add their voice to the legalization debate, while 5 more have legislation pending in their state legislatures. Here’s a quick summary.
Voters in 5 states will vote to legalize marijuana in at least some instances, while 5 more states have legalization laws pending in their state legislatures.
Marijuana is currently legal, in one variation or another, in the following 17 states; Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada ,New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Attempting to increase that number even more, 5 states will be voting on marijuana legalization ballot referendums this November. Here they are, from the marijuana legalization advocacy group Just Say Now:
Initiative 502 ‘would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana’ and looks as if it will be successful on election day. Not only are polls in Washington showing a majority of voters in support of the measure, but that support has been steadily growing.
In a poll held two months ago, 55% of Washington voters supported marijuana legalization while 32% opposed it. Now, 57% support the initiative while 34% oppose it and 9% are undecided. As the group points out, ‘Even if all the undecided end up breaking against the initiative, which tends to happen with ballot measures, I-502 should still easily be able to win approval.’
Unlike its neighbor to the north, Oregon’s marijuana legalization ballot initiative is currently trailing in the polls. Measure 80, which would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over, is trailing by 4% among voters.
A recent update gives us the following poll numbers from Oregon: Oppose legalization 41%, Support legalization 37%, Undecided 22%. With such a large undecided vote, it’s impossible to tell which side has the momentum or is more likely to win in November. The group grudgingly points out that Oregon’s senior citizens may doom the referendum, ‘Only 22 percent of senior citizens plan to vote to legalize marijuana while 53 percent plan to vote against it. Older Americans tend to turnout to vote in higher percentages than younger Americans.’
In Colorado, where small amounts of marijuana are already legal, Amendment 64 would legalize the plant for all adults 21 or older. According to current polls, the legalization initiative has an 11 point lead. Supporters of the referendum explain to Just Say Now that they aren’t taking anything for granted. As they point out, support for ballot initiatives tends to wane as the election nears. But already having the support of 51% of voters, activists are hopeful the measure will pass in November.
Issue 5, as it’s titled in Arkansas, is a ballot initiative that would grant medical patients access to medical marijuana. The measure would also enlist the government to oversee the opening and regulation of marijuana dispensaries in the state. As of the latest poll, the initiative is in a tight race. The most recent poll show 47% of Arkansas voters favor medical marijuana legalization, while 46% oppose it.
Nowhere is a medical marijuana ballot initiative more hopeful to win this November than in Massachusetts. Question 3, as it’s called, ‘would eliminate state criminal and civil penalties for the medical use of marijuana by qualifying patients’. Supporters are encouraged by the latest survey results from Public Policy Polling.
According to the poll results, a full 60% of Massachusetts voters support legalization of medical marijuana in the state. 27% oppose it and 14% are undecided. In August, the measure had 58% support with 27% opposing it. If the trend stays the same, Massachusetts could become the 18th state to legalize marijuana.
Legalization Bills in the State Legislature
In addition to the 5 states that will have marijuana initiatives on the voters’ ballot in November, 5 additional states currently have pending legislation that would accomplish the same goal. ProCon.org, an independent, nonpartisan charity, brings us the following updates from each state.
HB 0030 and SB 1548 in Illinois would create a pilot program legalizing medical marijuana. A similar Bill was expected to pass the last time it was voted on, but a pre-vote rebellion by representatives with large senior citizen constituencies defected and voted against it. Amendments have been added to the Bill five times since August 17 and as recently as September 5. That would indicate legislators finalizing the Bill in preparation for a vote.
HB 1421 in Missouri, ‘Changes the laws regarding the classification of marijuana as a controlled substance and allows its use for medicinal purposes under certain conditions.’ The Bill was referred to the Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee on March 21.
S7283 and A7347, currently before the New York State legislature, ‘Legalizes the possession, manufacture, use, delivery, transfer, transport or administration of marihuana by a certified patient or designated caregiver for a certified medical use.’ The Senate version was amended and recommitted to the Health Committee on June 8.
HB 214 in Ohio would legalize medical marijuana and issue patient ID cards. The Bill was sent to the House Health and Aging Committee on April 26, 2011. It appears nothing significant has happened with the measure since then.
SB 1003 and HB 1653, also known as the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, provides ‘for the medical use of marijuana; and repealing provisions of law that prohibit and penalize marijuana use’. The Senate version of the Bill was referred to the Public Health and Welfare Committee in April 2011. The House version was sent to the Human Services Committee in June 2011.
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