Marijuana Ballot Initiatives

Oregon, California, and Maine Could be Marijuana Legalization Battlegrounds in 2016 (and Maybe Even 2014)

What would happen if Oregon legalization advocates had the financial and policy support that went into Colorado and Washington?


Oregon came relatively close to legalizing marijuana in 2012. Measure 80, which would have allowed licensed commercial sales and unlicensed personal cultivation, had very little financial backing and no support from major legalization groups, yet nevertheless garnered 46.5 percent of the vote

What would happen if Oregon legalization advocates had the financial and policy support that went into Colorado and Washington? According to the Marijuana Policy Project's Steve Fox, we may find out in 2016:

The successful effort to legalize marijuana in Colorado was built on solid grassroots political organizing and an effective public relations campaign that equated pot with booze, according to the architect of Colorado's marijuana legalization amendment.

Those strategies took years to develop said Steve Fox, government relations director for the influential Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, which helped draft Colorado's constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana. Fox spoke Sunday at a town hall gathering of marijuana activists at the Matt Dishman Community Center in Northeast Portland.

Oregon is on a short list of states, which includes California and Maine, seen as prime candidates for legalizing pot in 2016, he said.


Timing of an Oregon initiative is key, Fox said.

Getting a legalization measure on the 2016 ballot – a presidential election year –would translate into greater voter support than if activists tried in 2014.

"What we have seen since 2000 is that if you do a ballot initiative related to marijuana on a presidential election year ballot as opposed to a mid-term election, the difference is stark," he said.

Based on conversations I've had with them, the Drug Policy Alliance is helping lay the groundwork in Oregon, for either a 2014 or 2016 initiative. Writing at The Weed Blog, Oregon resident Johnny Green argues that the push for tax-and-regulate should come in 2014:

Almost 47% of 2012 Oregon voters voted for UNLIMITED cultivation and possession of marijuana. Almost 47% of Oregon voted for UNLIMITED cultivation and possession of marijuana despite the fact that the campaign was run with virtually no money, and didn't get any financial assistance from national organizations or large donors (well, except Willie Nelson!). Name one other state that you could ask the voters straight up or down 'do you want marijuana to be legal with  no constraints' and have 47% of the voters say yes, despite the fact that there was virtually no public awareness campaign behind the question? Looking at how heavily regulated Washington and Colorado's models are, I doubt even they could get as much support for such a loose system.

If organizations and large donors are going to back campaigns in 2014 in other states, but won't do it in Oregon, that just simply doesn't make sense to me. If it was an all or nothing thing, and organizations and donors weren't backing anythingin any state in 2014, I would understand. But to choose other states over Oregon based off of polling seems ridiculous to me. If marijuana reform had never, ever had a victory in a non-presidential election year, then I would maybe feel different. But marijuana reform has had at least one major victory in a non-presidential year that I can think of…um, Oregon 1998 anyone?

What a lot of out-of-staters don't take into account is that Oregon holds it's Governor's race in non-presidential election years. So while voter turnout isn't quite as large as it is during presidential years, it's still significant. And when one considers the demographics of Oregon politics, things seem even less stark. Oregon votes mostly Democrat. And we know that Democrats are much more likely to vote for legalization than Republicans (although that divide is narrowing!). Oregon is so Democrat that we haven't elected a Republican in a statewide race in over a decade. In fact, races such as Attorney General and Treasurer often don't even have a Republican candidate on the ballot. After a race in 2010 that saw the Governor decided by a razor thin margin, things are going to be heated in 2014. National Democrat organizations are going to be pouring in efforts and money to bring out as many voters in Oregon as possible. This will have an effect on any marijuana reform measure as well.

NEXT: Hagel Defends Record at Confirmation Hearings

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

    1. It’s nearly unstoppable at this point. The only question left is “How much longer?”

      1. November 2016.

        (Provided there are no horrific school-bus accidents that rivet a nation in the interim…)

        1. Don’t worry about Otto unless he gets killed. He’s got a bottle of synthetic urine and one of those chemical warming pad taped to his leg.

  1. I missed morning links, and since this particular news will likely affect stoners disproportionately, I will share the bad news here:

    GTA V Release Pushed Back From Spring to September 2013

  2. What happens when it is legal in all 50 states? At this point are their any states where such measures would not win? Utah maybe.

    1. That is a bit optimistic. I don’t see it happening here in Texas for a good bit. Even if we had ballot measures, which we don’t.

      1. Yeah, same with Georgia. Not gonna happen.

      2. True. Some states don’t have ballot measures. But what about the ones that do? I think they could pass in a lot more states than you think.

        1. I dunno, dude. First time I went to Georgia I flew in on a Sunday. I marched into a gas station for a beer to stave off the afternoon shakes and the cooler was locked.

          I told the guy “Hey, you forgot to unlock your beer cooler.” He looked at me like I was a martian. He said “It’s Sunday.” I said “Yeah, I know. I said YOU FORGOT TO UNLOCK YOUR BEER COOLER.” Then he explained the previously-foreign concept of blue laws to me.

          Shit, some of those southern states still have dry counties. Takes the wind right out of the pro-cannabis “but alcohol is worse” talking point.

          1. Those laws exist because the “beverage service” industry owns the legislature. The number of actual people who support them is pretty low.

            1. You might be right. I’ve heard Kentucky is pretty libertarian, and they have dry counties. I don’t really oppose the idea of dry counties, frankly. Regional autonomy and all that. As long as it’s not some Fed dickheads dictating the issue.

              1. I don’t oppose them either. Usually it is some county in the middle of nowhere who don’t want someone coming and building a bar in their town that attracts out of towners. So they make it a dry county to the locals can drink at the club. Not something I would want. But I am not bothered by them doing it.

                1. Not every dry or damp county here in Texas is that rural but it is true that getting around the law is pretty easy. Hell we have a dry section of Houston because of the annexation agreement with Houston Heights almost a hundred years ago. It’s almost impossible to change because the way the Texas Legislature set up prohibition ballot measures (it has to be a political unit like a ward/city/county and the Heights is none of those). Still I’ve drank plenty of times in the zone of this map by joining the club and there are liquor stores at the edge of those boundaries.

              2. You might be right. I’ve heard Kentucky is pretty libertarian, and they have dry counties.

                It is. And we do. I live in one. Every single one of my neighbors drinks. Most have a beer in hand by noon, and their jar out by 5. No one really cares because the nearest puddle is just a few miles away and goes there for everything else anyways.

                I think that a pot vote might have a shot in KY. Most of my neighbors smoke too.

              3. Kentucky is very libertarian as long as people do what they’re told to do.

    2. The medical version lost (barely) in Arkansas last year, so I doubt full legalization will happen next election cycle.

      1. If even medical marijuana is close to passing in a state like Arkansas, I would say it won’t be long before decriminalization can pass in almost any state.

      2. South Dakota also previously rejected medical. WTF is wrong with these people?!?

    3. At this point are their any states where such measures would not win?

      I think we are a long way away from that. Deep South? Plains? I don’t see it.

      For that matter, the nanny runs deep in the Midwest. Until the soccer moms back off on this issue, its tough sledding.

      1. It would pass in most plains states. And the upper midwest is pretty liberal.

      2. The newest generation of liberated skanks and baby mamas can also be surprisingly shrill on the issue of weed. I’ve done some independent polling on the matter. Something about never helps with the kids and always playing video games blah blah or some shit.

        1. Those dudes are just losers, then. There is not much better than getting baked and playing with a little kid.

          1. Right? I mean, what’s the point of having kids? I trained my boy to be my designated driver starting at age nine.

  3. Still waiting to see how the feds react once WA and CO get everything ironed out.

    I’m still betting that the feds will wait until some growers and distributors get established and amass some wealth, before going in and stealing it all.

  4. It pisses me off that my pet issue is at the mercy of a political party that I despise. I truly yearn to the see The Sweet Leaf be liberated, but I will never vote Democrat, even if they promised free garbage bags of sticky green bud to me and only me alone.

    1. but I will never vote Democrat, even if they promised free garbage bags of sticky green bud

      In a generation’s time, the issue will evolve to the point where the GOP is considered the anti-weed party not because they want it criminalized, but because they don’t want it subsidized.

      1. And, I suppose, the Green Party will be fighting Big Weed.

        We’ll see.

      2. Yeah, because there are so many people pushing to subsidize alcohol, coffee and energy drinks now.

        1. There is a push from some nannies to ban energy drinks now, so that isn’t exactly a good example.

          1. No, perhaps not. I was just trying to add another (currently) legal recreational drug to the list.

        2. I’d bet that businesses like Starbucks and various liquor manufacturers get political considerations which amount to a subsidy. Maybe not direct cash transfers to their coffers, but they are absolutely subsidized in one way or another.

      3. Progress marches on, one funeral at a time.

    2. even if they promised free garbage bags of sticky green bud to me and only me alone.

      I’d vote Democrat for that. Fuck it, my vote won’t change the outcome of the election. I’d also probably sell my vote for $50. Maybe less.

  5. Maine would be a big deal just because it is in the highly-populated Northeast. Right now for us on the east coast it being legal in Colorado and Washington State is about as relevant as it being legal in Amsterdam.

    1. What, you don’t think that that Mountain-West supply is going to grow legs, come east, and start driving down prices.

      Have faith in Teh Arbitrage!

  6. I saw something awesome here in CO last night. My wife’s friend invited us out to a bar to see her band. Funny thing happened when we arrived. When we walked in, the doorman confirmed the sign on the door, they were having a “private event.” The place reeked of pot. He then told us that we were welcome if we paid the $20 cover (each), and that we would get all the pot we could smoke.

    We paid it, just to see the sight. It was crazy to see 200 people smoking in the same room.

    1. While I would imagine some of them were pretty annoying, I bet it was a thousand times more peaceful and laid back than a room of 200 drunks.

      1. It was pretty easy going. The crowd was mostly quiet, watching the band.

    2. I’m jealous. 🙁

    3. “Just to see the sight?” For $20 I’d be like Homer at the Frying Dutchman.

      1. Didn’t really expect it when we got there. My wife and I were no strangers to the stuff in our younger days, but the whole thing felt a bit weird, not sure she was entirely comfortable.

    4. Serious question. Is this kind of thing common place in Colorado now? Are bars offering “pot night” like happy hours?

      1. Never heard of this before, and didn’t see this advertised anywhere. Don’t think its very common, just got lucky.

    5. Curious. Can they smoke tobacco?

      I remember when I lived in Boulder that marijuana was a $50 fine, while smoking tobacco in a place that serves food was a $100 fine for first offense and a possible $1000 fine with jail time for the third.

      1. I don’t remember anyone with a cigarette. Though I am not entirely sure that this thing was completely legal anyway. Paying $20 to get into a party with free weed. Sounded to me like they were jumping the gun a bit.

      2. I can state from experience that every establishment inside which marijuana smoking was legal, or at least quasi-legal, (various places in Amsterdam, The New Amsterdam Cafe in Vancouver), not a single one of them allowed cigarette smoking.

        1. What about spliffs (rolling your joint w/both pot and tobacco)?

  7. races such as Attorney General and Treasurer often don’t even have a Republican candidate on the ballot

    A bit misleading. No one filed for the Republican primary fot those two offices last year so write in candidates won those and then moved on to the general election. There have not been statewide general election races without a Republican candidates.

    1. Oregon is the last of the straight-up Dixiecrat strongholds. Except for Eugene and Portland it’s thick with rural hillbilly gun-totin’ truck-lovers who embrace Democrats for the welfare and because they never have to actually live around many colored folk.

      1. Umm, no. That’s not correct at all. The urban areas are mostly blue, particularly in and around Portland. The suburban areas are purplish to blue. Southern and Eastern Oregon are red, which really doesn’t matter because there’s so few people there in comparison and the coast is a patchwork that doesn’t really care what color their guy is as long as he brings home pork.

  8. Just to play devil’s advocate here, what about all of those people who supported medical marijuana but opposed broader decriminalization? Are some of them going to feel hoodwinked now that we’ve seen decriminalization in two western states and should we expect a backlash where MMJ initiatives suddenly become harder to pass? (I have in mind an opinion piece by our local newspaper scold.) Or is the genie out of the bottle at this point?

    1. I wasn’t aware of the people supporting medical mj denying that they would like to see the stuff legalized across the board.

      1. Perhaps some supporters will. I think that may have been a very tiny part of Oregon’s defeat due to how MMJ was sold, but I don’t have anything concrete to back it up with. More so was the poor title of the ballot measure as well as setting up a state store system for retail sales.

    2. Yeah, it’s a good theory that’s undermined by facts.

      The theory, which I also used to believe, was that people were compassionate for cancer patients but still hateful against stoners.

      Now it looks more like the truth is that some people really believe the plant is “the devil weed” but these people are like 8 million years old. Anyone who was in high school after, say, 1970, knows the score (generally speaking).

      It’s just a plant!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.