Legalization Takes The Initiative

In order to “understand how important and effective the initiative process has been for advancing marijuana reform,” Jon Walker recommends looking “at two states recently in the news for the issue, New York and Oregon”:

New York is actually more liberal than Oregon, according to Gallup, and voted heavily for Barack Obama in 2012. Obama carried New York with 63.4 percent of the votes but won only 54.4 percent in Oregon. The people of New York are also arguably as supportive, or even more supportive, of marijuana reform as the people of Oregon. A Quinnipiac poll from February found 57 percent of New York voters support legally possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal use. The highest support any independent poll found for legalization in Oregon was 54 percent.

Yet this year New York is finally only getting a watered down medical marijuana law while Oregon has had medical marijuana since 1998 — and will likely fully legalize marijuana for adults this November.

The less liberal Oregon is effectively 16 years ahead of New York for the simple reason that it provides an initiative process for getting around reluctant politicians. It was a citizen initiative, ballot measure 67, that got medical marijuana legalized in Oregon back in 1998, and it is another initiative that will likely lead to the state legalizing adult use this year.

Update from a reader:

Walker conflates support for marijuana and political orientation. As you’ve noted often, this is not purely a left-right issue. One of Oregon’s most famous initiatives was the landmark Death with Dignity law that legalized doctor-assisted suicide. Like marijuana, that issue, often cast as liberal, had more complex support and opposition from both sides (but a substantial and durable majority).

There are conservatives who support marijuana legalization, and this gets to the second point: West Coast liberals are not the same as those in New York and Massachusetts. You could over-interpret this, but left-coast liberalism is more libertarian. The pioneer spirit lives out here, and so-called nanny-state liberalism is less prevalent. Oregon’s flavor of liberalism exhibits itself in our extremely broad free-speech constitutional provision – the one that makes strip clubs dens of free speech, not sin and depravity (legally-speaking). It’s why we’ve had medical marijuana so long and why we will almost certainly join libertarian-liberal western states Washington and Colorado soon.

Like conservatism, liberalism isn’t a monolith.

Meanwhile, Washington state will be begin selling legal marijuana tomorrow. But there likely won’t be enough to go around:

Pot regulators, business owners and analysts say pot could sell out in Washington within hours or days at the few shops slated to open on Tuesday. That is largely because of limited harvests by licensed growers and processors, or because they failed to clear regulatory hurdles to get their product to market. Washington is also grappling with a backlog of hundreds of would-be growers who still need to be screened by overwhelmed investigators with the state Liquor Control Board, agency spokesman Brian Smith said.

Recent Dish on Washington’s woes here.