It was a successful Election Day for supporters of recreational marijuana — it was legalized in Alaska and Oregon and will be under congressional review for the District of Columbia.
The votes in Alaska and Oregon weren’t overwhelming: 52.2 percent and 55.9 percent in favor, respectively. But Initiative 71 in D.C., which proposed that anyone age 21 and older can possess up to two ounces and own up to three mature plants, passed with 69.5 percent support.
Zack Pesavento, spokesman for the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, said the organization was surprised by the overwhelming positive turnout.
“We felt confident going into Election Day, but I think that even our expectations were exceeded by the final vote,” Pesavento said.
Once the policies in Alaska and Oregon take effect, four states will have legal recreational marijuana. Since D.C. is not a state, marijuana supporters now have to wait until the measure receives congressional approval, which could be as late as March 2015.
A total of 23 states, plus D.C., have legalized medical marijuana — and there has been a push for it in North Carolina. N.C. Rep. Kelly Alexander, D-Mecklenburg, said he has seen potential for it during the last few months.
Gov. Pat McCrory signed legislation in July that allowed for clinical trials of hemp oil extract for the treatment of drug-related epilepsy.
Alexander, who plans to tackle legalizing medical marijuana during the next legislative session, said though the law was a step in the right direction, he said he thinks the measure was too narrow.
“When you read it you see that it specifies a type of oil, which limits it. It also limited the use to people who were enrolled in medical school trials,” he said.
“There are about 20 or 30 ailments that we have varying degrees of medical support for cannabis being something that helps.”
He said if medical marijuana is an issue North Carolina residents care about, they should contact their lawmaker.
Immediately after last week’s election, U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., vowed to stop marijuana legalization in D.C., according to the Washington Post. Harris said in a July statement that as a physician, he is concerned about the potential effects of marijuana on teenagers.
“When I became a physician, I took an oath to do no harm, and decriminalizing marijuana will harm D.C. residents, especially teens,” he said.
Pesavento said the D.C. campaign is prepared to fight for the initiative to ensure its passage into law.
“We’re hearing from Senate leaders like Sen. Rand Paul who said that Congress should respect the will of the D.C. voters, and we agree with him,” he said.
Legalizing marijuana will provide a safer market for obtaining the drug and allow law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes, said Morgan Fox, spokesman at the Marijuana Policy Project, which provided the majority of funding for the Alaska legalization campaign.
Fox also said identification checks will make it hard for the drug to end up in the hands of minors.
“The money for the marijuana market will be going into legitimate businesses and have taxes paid on it instead of being controlled by the illicit market, which always ends up in the hands of dangerous criminals,” he said.
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