Colorado, home to a significant number of independent voters and nine electoral votes; is an important swing state in the upcoming election. Obama and Romney have devoted tons of money and manpower in the hopes of winning this state. However, the issue that could most affect the outcome is one they actually agree on. — whether to legalize marijuana — they oppose it.
The Colorado initiative is called Amendment 64. It basically seeks to treat marijuana like alcohol – taxed, regulated and legal for anyone 21 or over (up to an ounce). The measure has been backed by the NAACP, law enforcement, and – in early polls – the majority of voters.
Recent polls found Amendment 64 to be more popular than Romney or Obama in the state, with 48 percent supporting legalization and 43 percent opposing. But a poll a month earlier had 60 percent in support, so the pro-legalization movement appears to be losing some steam.
What effect Amendment 64 will have on the presidential race is unclear. The popular logic is that it might bring people out to the polls who otherwise would skip voting – the proverbial “Bud Bump,” and those voters are more likely to pick Obama. Young voters are known to favor Amendment 64 by a two-to-one margin, and favor Obama in similar numbers. But Obama and his administration have been widely criticized for raiding medical marijuana facilities, and both candidates’ anti-legalization stance is well documented. Another wild card is that Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is in favor of marijuana legalization, and has polled as high as five percent in Colorado. Some polls say he is pulling more votes away from Obama, others say Romney.
Colorado isn’t the only state that will be deciding on marijuana-specific ballot measures this November. Voters in five other states – Oregon, Washington, Arkansas, Massachusetts, and Montana – will also have the chance to get their voices heard.
In Washington, voters will decide on Initiative 502, which seeks to regulate the production and sale of limited amounts of marijuana for adults. The measure also removes criminal penalties specific to the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use. A recent poll shows support at 54% and opposition trailing at 38%. Oregon voters will decide on Measure 80, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, which would regulate the growth and sale of marijuana to adults.
On the medical front there’s even more: Massachusetts voters will decide on Question 3, a statewide proposal that seeks to allow for the possession and state-licensed distribution of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. It would also require the state to create and regulate up to 35 facilities to produce and dispense cannabis to approved patients. Individual patients will also be permitted to privately cultivate limited amounts of cannabis if they are unable to access a state-authorized dispensary.Arkansas voters will vote on a similar measure, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act of 2012 and Montana voters will decide on Initiative Referendum 124.
Many advocates of marijuana legalization have very high hopes for this election. According to the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), this election is “without a doubt, the most important one yet in the world of marijuana law reform…couple these reform efforts with a presidential election and we have history in the making.” Not only could this election be a turning point for the legalization movement, there are signs that it is picking up steam from other key players in the political world.
These days it seems like many politicians are becoming more comfortable with getting in on the marijuana debate. Earlier this month, which marked the 75th anniversary of marijuana prohibition in America, Rolling Stone released an article stating their pick for “The 10 best politicians on Pot Reform”. From Ron Paul to Barney Frank, there are many elected officials on both sides of the political spectrum that favor the reform of marijuana laws.
Celebrities are also putting in their two cents on the issue. Singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge supports the legalization of marijuana and has recently released a new radio ad showing her support. She shares with viewers how marijuana helped her during her battle with breast cancer stating that it was “the only thing that allowed me to function and regain my strength.”
Still, neither Obama nor Romney will soften their anti-legalization stance. Some believe that either administration would attempt to overrule any state law that makes pot legal.
In an outtake from a recent interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes, Deputy Attorney General James Cole hinted that Federal action might await.
“We’re going to take a look at whether or not there are dangers to the community from the sale of marijuana and we’re going to go after those dangers,” Cole said.