Marijuana reform had a big day Nov. 4. A very big day indeed.
Voters in two states and the District of Columbia legalized recreational weed, while several cities across the country did the same. A major medical marijuana proposal fell short, though it won a majority of the vote.
Oregon and Alaska became the third and fourth states, respectively, to legalize pot. That brings the number of states with legal cannabis to four, including Washington and Colorado.
The new law in Oregon, which passed with 54 percent of the vote, will allow adults over 21 to carry up to an ounce in public, possess up to eight ounces at home, and grow up to four plants. That makes it the nation’s most liberal marijuana law.
Alaska fourth state to fully legalize
Alaska’s legalization measure passed with 52 percent of the vote. It will soon be legal to possess up to an ounce there and grow up to six plants at home. Residents already had the right to possess up to four ounces of weed at home under a state Supreme Court ruling from the 1970s.
Weed was also decriminalized in Oregon in the 1970s, and both states already had medical marijuana. With Washington, the entire Pacific Northwest is now legal. Just California remains to turn the whole West Coast green.
That vote will likely come in two years, and it’s expected to pass. That alone would bring legal marijuana to more than 30 million people.
Clear win for marijuana reform in D.C.
In Washington, D.C., meanwhile, legalization passed by a wide margin, with nearly 70 percent voting yes. The District Council must take further action before the city will see a working pot market.
And Congress could throw a wrench into the District vote. The federal government can overturn any law passed by District officials, and has done so before. This would require a vote by both houses of Congress and a signature from President Obama.
There’s a good chance Congress will pass legislation to overturn the vote, but it’s less likely Obama would agree to sign it. The District is overwhelmingly Democratic, and the president would risk alienating those voters.
Under the new law, adults over 21 would be able to possess up to two ounces and grow up to four plants. The District Council voted to decriminalize weed earlier this year, and Congress failed to nullify that vote, so even if legalization ultimately fails, weed will remain relatively risk-free.
Florida voters delivered reform’s only major defeat of the election day. About 58 percent of voters there supported a major medical marijuana proposal – the first in the Deep South – but it needed 60 percent to become law.