Election 2014: Four State Initiatives & What They Mean for Marijuana Investors
Back in 2012, Colorado and Washington voted to legalize recreational marijuana for adults over 21. Election Day 2014 looks like it will be a repeat. Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia have initiatives on the November 4, 2014, ballot that would expand the lay of the legalization landscape. Florida has a medical marijuana initiative on its ballot. But is this all good news for investors?
While the potential is there, voters may attenuate some of the excitement. Still, after Election Day 2014 is in the books, investors will likely have a new marijuana market converting to the legal side of the law: Oregon.
In Oregon, a yes vote for Measure 91 supports making recreational marijuana legal for adults 21 and over. Oregon Live reports that an Oregon Public Broadcasting poll showed 52 percent of respondents supporting Measure 91 and 41 percent opposing it. While the measure is expected to pass, according to The Portland Mercury, groups have registered with the Oregon Secretary of State in opposition of Measure 91.
Of the states voting on marijuana this year, Oregon is the likeliest to follow in the path being blazed for investors in Colorado and Washington because it is likeliest to pass and Measure 91 is closest to Amendment 64 and Initiative 105, compared to the other ballot initiatives.
Alaskans are voting on Measure 2, though it is trailing in the polls. Measure 2 would also make marijuana legal for adults, and it would make Alaska the first traditionally “red state” to tax and regulate marijuana; that is, if marijuana is not already legal in the last frontier. The Washington Post said marijuana has been quasi-legal in Alaska for 39 years as a result of a 1970s-era court ruling.
Back in 1975, in a case called Ravin v. State, the Alaskan Supreme Court ruled that the right to privacy in the state allowed for growing and possessing small amounts of marijuana at home, based on Ravin’s assertion “that there is no legitimate state interest in prohibiting [...] marijuana [...].” The ruling found the right of privacy does apply to the non-commercial use and possession of marijuana in the home.
In their research, the Alaskan justices found precedents in a number of First and Fourth Amendment related cases pertaining to privacy and personal freedom, and that “the right of privacy in the sense of immunity from prosecution is absolute only when the private activity will not endanger or harm the general public.” Ultimately, the justices said in their ruling that personal marijuana does not constitute that threat.
Measure 2 would allow Alaska to tax and regulate marijuana similar to Colorado and Washington. However, the Alaska Dispatch News reports that a Dittman Research poll showed 53 percent of respondents voting against initiative 2, while 43 percent were voting for it and 4 percent were undecided.
Despite the quasi-legal status of pot, Alaskans who want to get involved in a legitimate marijuana industry may have to wait until another election year to see that happen.
Voters in Florida will decide on Amendment 2, the nation’s only medical marijuana initiative in the 2014 election year. Florida could become the first southern state to legalize medical marijuana on Election Day. According to the text of Florida’s medical marijuana amendment, doctors must determine whether the benefits of marijuana will outweigh the risks in each patient’s case.
The thing about Amendment 2 is that it must pass by a 60 percent vote. The Tampa Bay Times said that due to sheriffs weighing in at medical marijuana forums around the Sunshine State, support has slipped dramatically. A poll cited in the article said only 48 percent of likely voters are a yes vote, while 44 percent are a no vote. The 7 percent undecided are not even enough to tip the scale.
Though it is not a state, the District of Columbia is voting to legalize personal possession and cultivation of marijuana on Election Day. Initiative 71 will legalize possession, cultivation and non-sale distribution for adults. The District’s initiative cannot address retail marijuana sales due to other laws in the district.
An NBC4/Washington Post/Marist DC poll says that 65 percent of registered likely voters support Initiative 71, while 33 percent oppose and 2 percent are undecided. As The Washington Post points out, that’s nearly a 2-to-1 margin.
Time magazine has said that the races this year are ramping up to 2016, which will be the biggest year for national marijuana politics as the stage is being set in California for legalized recreational marijuana. While the likely outcomes of the initiatives for Election Day 2014 might give investors in Oregon something to look forward to, as polls indicate, there is still much work to be done. Of course, polls have been wrong before, and one can only wait until each ballot has been counted.
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