Marijuana Wins Big in State Elections

Election Night 2013 featured four proposals concerning municipal legalization of marijuana and one statewide recreational tax initiative.  In every case, the marijuana measures won handily.


Colorado: Voters passed Proposition AA by a 65 percent to 35 percent margin. This vote enacted the 15 percent excise tax on recreational marijuana sales that voters legalized with Amendment 64 last election, as well as a 10 percent sales tax not originally included in the amendment.  

"Colorado is demonstrating to the rest of the nation that it is possible to end marijuana prohibition and successfully regulate marijuana like alcohol," said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, which supported Proposition AA and was the largest financial backer of the Amendment 64 campaign in 2012. "It is only a matter of time before voters and lawmakers in other states recognize the benefits and adopt similar policies."

Opponents claimed AA was a “bait and switch” by adding a new sales tax and by taxing marijuana at rates far greater than alcohol.

Colorado Legislative Council staff have estimated that Proposition AA will generate $27.5 million in annual excise tax revenue and $39.5 million in annual state sales tax revenue. Six million of that sales tax revenue would be directed back to localities. The revenue from the new 10 percent state sales tax will be used to fund the marijuana regulatory structure. This includes enforcement of laws for the testing, tracking and labeling of retail marijuana, as well as measures to prevent the diversion of retail marijuana to individuals under 21 years old.

Maine: Voters in the state's most populated city, Portland, approved a municipal measure that legalized 2.5 ounces of marijuana for adults over 21 years of age. This vote was approved by a two-to-one margin (67 percent) and also legalizes paraphernalia and sharing of marijuana between adults. Victory in Portland boosts statewide efforts in Maine, which seek to regulate marijuana like alcohol in 2016. 

"Now that marijuana is legal for adults in Maine's largest city, there is an even greater need for comprehensive reform at the state level," said David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which backed the municipal measure. 

Michigan: The cities of Ferndale, Lansing and Jackson all voted on proposals to decriminalize the possession and sharing of less than one ounce of marijuana for adults. The votes approving decrim in those cities were margins of 69 percent, 62 percent and 61 percent support, respectively.

In Maine and Michigan, non-medical marijuana possession still remains illegal, so these city ordinances would only apply to cases involving city police officers, who may choose to detain and arrest adult pot smokers under state law. Even so, municipal marijuana reforms that get better than 60% support are harbingers of future marijuana reforms at the state level. Activists have already targeted Maine for 2016 legalization and these Michigan votes may accelerate the timetable for that state.

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