Alaska voters approved a ballot measure to end marijuana prohibition on Tuesday, capping off a historic election year for marijuana policy reform. Voters in Oregon adopted a similar initiative earlier in the evening, making it the third state in the nation to end marijuana prohibition, following Colorado and Washington.
Measure 91 in Oregon and Ballot Measure 2 in Alaska make possession and cultivation of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older, and they establish systems in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. At the time of this release, Measure 91 was leading 56-44 with 94% of votes counted. Ballot Measure 2 won 52-48 with 100% of precincts reporting.
Proposals to regulate marijuana like alcohol are expected to appear on the ballots in at least five more states in 2016. Rhode Island could become the next state to end marijuana prohibition by passing a law to regulate marijuana like alcohol through the state legislature in 2015.
Jared Moffat, Director of Regulate Rhode Island:
“The results are in, and marijuana prohibition is on its way out. Americans are fed up with wasteful and ineffective laws that punish adults for using a less harmful substance than alcohol. The results are particularly encouraging since voter turnout during a midterm election is typically smaller, older, and more conservative. Clearly, support for ending marijuana prohibition spans the political and ideological spectrums.
“Many newly elected state leaders in Rhode Island focused their campaign messages around rebuilding Rhode Island’s economy. Establishing a system to regulate and tax marijuana would create hundreds of new jobs and generate tens of millions of dollars in additional tax revenue for the state. Rhode Island can give itself a head start advantage over other states in the region by becoming the first East Coast state to end marijuana prohibition in 2015.”
Elizabeth A. Comery, retired lawyer and former Providence police officer:
“I am part of the Regulate Rhode Island coalition because when I worked for the Providence Police Department, I saw firsthand how destructive and ineffective our punitive marijuana laws are. Like alcohol prohibition, marijuana prohibition has not stopped Americans from using the substance. Prohibition simply steers profits to violent drug cartels that grow and sell marijuana illegally. It would be much better from a public safety perspective to regulate marijuana and have it sold by responsible business owners who must operate within the law. The results in Oregon and Alaska show that our nation is quickly moving towards repealing marijuana prohibition, and I hope Rhode Island will soon follow.”
Dr. James Crowley, physician and former president of the Rhode Island Medical Society:
“Health professionals increasingly support regulating cannabis because they have seen after more than four decades that prohibition does not promote public health. Regulation is far better than prohibition because it allows the state to ensure that cannabis is produced under safe and sanitary conditions and labeled with information about potency. Moreover, by taxing cannabis we can re-direct revenue streams away from the illicit cannabis industry, which has no interest in promoting public health, and into vital services like substance use disorder prevention and treatment programs.”