Pot Legalization Efforts Kick Off Across the Country After Wins in Washington, Colorado

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Yesterday, we ran an interview with Norm Stamper, who speculated that marijuana legalization groups in other states will draw lessons from election results in Washington and Colorado as they put forward their own ballot measures.

*See Also: Norm Stamper's Post-Election Regret Over Initiative 502

That discussion has already begun.

In California, a number of groups interested in legalization met last Friday to discuss a possible initiative, according to leaders of the Washington D.C.-based group NORML. Mason Tvert, spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project, another national group, says he expects Oregon will see an initiative as well.

Meanwhile, legislators in at least five states have indicated their intent to submit marijuana regulation and taxation bills in the 2013 session, according to Tvert. Those are Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

The successful ballot measures in Washington and Colorado have "emboldened legislators," observes Tvert, who co-directed Colorado's Amendment 64 campagin. "It's no longer 'it could happen,' " he says of the prospect of legalization. "It happened."

California and Oregon might seem bad bets for legalization given that both have seen ballot measures fail (California's in 2010, and Oregon's just this past election.) But both measures got respectable showings, and given that public support for legalization is growing by the year, Tvert expresses confidence that California and Oregon will soon be ready for new initiatives.

One of the big questions is when. A lot of the heavy hitters in the marijuana reform world are urging legalization groups to hold out until the next presidential election year, 2016, when more youth voters can be expected to turn out. Indeed, Tvert says that the Marijuana Policy Project will not invest in any legalization effort before that. In the fractious world of marijuana activism (look no further than the Initiative 502 campaign, whose fiercest critics were pot activists), you can expect some people not to heed that advice.

An even bigger question is what a potential initiative, or legislative bill, might say. In his conversation with SW, Stamper said he felt after the election that Initiative 502 did not need to be as restrictive as it was. Colorodo's Amendment 64 also passed, he noted, and yet that much more concise measure did not have a dui provision, nor did it prohibit home-grows, as 502 did.

"It does open up the possibility that issues like duid [driving under the influence of drugs] and home cultivation may not be as important as we initially thought," says NORML legal director Keith Stroup.

On the other hand, he cautions, just because a certain initiative worked in Colorado doesn't mean it will work in other states. He says activists in each state will need to do their own "sophisticated polling" to determine what local voters will go for.

"I think it is a good thing that we now have two successful models of legalization," adds NORML deputy director Paul Armentano.

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