6 States Could Legalize Pot This Fall

Craig Boudreau | Vice Reporter

Six states will be voting on marijuana legalization in November.

California, Maine, Nevada and Massachusetts will be voting on the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, while Florida and Arkansas will be voting on whether or not the allow medical marijuana in the fall.

An Arizona initiative for full legalization recently received the required number of signatures to make it on the November ballot, and the secretary of state has approved it. The counties need to verify the signatures and, if they do, the measure will appear on November’s ballot, Mikel Weisser, state director for the Arizona branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), told The Daily Caller News Foundation. Weisser adds that the counties will have their verdict ready by Aug. 20.

Florida, which has been historically tough on medical marijuana laws, was forced into the medical marijuana vote through a citizen-led initiative. Karen Seeb Goldstein, executive director of the Florida branch of NORML, told TheDCNF there was “legislation passed allowing for medical marijuana but that is was very limited.”

She notes doctors were only able to prescribe a low-THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana), high-CBD (a non-psychoactive ingredient) tinctures, and that taking compounds out of the plants can have a potential neutering effect on treatment.

Goldstein says the law was written in a “confusing” way, and thinks it was Florida’s attempt at staving off citizen-led initiatives, because people who may not be fully up to speed would vote no on medical marijuana due to the fact that it’s already legal, albeit very limited.

Further, Goldstein notes that some of the opposition funding comes from Mel Sembler, who at one point operated a highly controversial juvenile rehab program, Straight Inc., which was eventually shut down after a congressional investigation uncovered both sexual and physical abuse and sleep deprivation.

Sembler, a real estate developer, builds Publix supermarkets. The heiress to the Publix fortune recently donated $800,000 to Drug Free Florida — an arm of Drug Free America, which Sembler is the chairman of. Florida NORML has planned protests at several Publix Aug. 13.

In California, where legalization has failed in the past, voters will try again this fall. The pro-legalization group Yes On 64 filed a lawsuit Thursday against its opposition, No On 64, over what it says are “obvious falsehoods.” California was the first state in the country to legalize marijuana for medical use, in 1996.

A Quinnipiac University poll taken in June shows that Americans support legalization on both fronts by a majority. For full, unrestricted recreational legalization, Americans are in favor by a 54 to 41 percent margin, and for medical marijuana, the overwhelming majority support it by an 89 to 9 percent margin.

This majority [of Americans] believe that a pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for the legal, licensed commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to adults, but restricts and discourages its use among young people is preferable to criminalization,” Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, told TheDCNF.

“There are far more states voting on far-reaching marijuana law reform proposals this year than in any past election cycle,” Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, told TheDCNF. “If all goes according to plan, we will more than double the number of states with full legalization.”

One group fighting against the legalization movement is the Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana (CALM).

“The marijuana of the 1960’s and ‘70’s was about 2 percent THC,” Scott Chipman, southern California chair of CALM told TheDCNF. “Today’s pot is 10-40 times stronger with THC levels of 15-25 percent for botanical smoked marijuana and 40-90 percent THC for hash oils, dabs, waxes, edibles, etc. This is the crack cocaine of marijuana.”

“One of the biggest challenges of marijuana policy reform is in overcoming decades of misinformation about the substance,” Morgan Fox, communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project, told TheDCNF in regards to the opposition to legalization. “Marijuana is objectively safer than alcohol and many other legal substances, yet many people, particularly in older demographics, still erroneously believe that it causes serious health problems and leads to more dangerous drug use.”

“There have been some 15,000 studies of marijuana and each year the FDA reaffirms botanical marijuana is not medicine.” Chipman also notes that there are already synthetic version of marijuana on the medical market.

“The results of a 38 year study recently published by University of California, Davis indicated marijuana use is linked to downward social mobility, anti-social behaviors, and relationship conflicts,” Chipman says about the impact marijuana has on users.

Armentano believes that the shifting mood of the people towards marijuana needs to be respected and heard by politicians who represent them.

“In the future, elected officials at both the state and federal level will need to place greater emphasis on representing the views of their constituents and positioning themselves to be on the right side of history,” Armentano continued. “Rather than on trying to appease a vocal minority that is woefully out of touch with both changing public and scientific opinion.”

So far, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

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