Midterm elections rundown: Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., vote to legalise marijuana
Nov. 4 was Election Day in the United States, bringing with it a Republican takeover of Congress. With the Republicans now in control of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Obama administration is seemingly powerless in the White House for the next two years until the 2016 presidential election.
So what? Only politics nerds [Ed: myself included] will turn their heads to notice this Democratic meltdown.
However, something that perhaps will grab your attention is that Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., all voted ‘YES’ to legalise marijuana. They now join Washington and Colorado, who both legalised the drug in the 2010 election.
Oregon and Alaska both passed measures that allow the possession, production and sales of recreational marijuana for adults over 21. With nearly all votes in, Oregon passed Measure 91 with 55.7 percent voting yes and 44.3 percent voting no. Alaska passed Measure 2 with 52.15 percent voting yes and 47.85 voting no.
Oregon’s law will allow someone to possess eight ounces of marijuana and grow up to four plants. Alaska’s law will allow someone to possess one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants.
Washington, D.C., on the other hand, voted on an initiative to only legalise personal possession, but not to sell the drug. The law allows people over 21 to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants. The initiative passed with 69.4 percent voting yes and 30.6 percent voting no.
U.S. politics lesson 101: there are two sets of laws in America. Federal law and state law. Federal law all people must follow, meanwhile state law is unique to people within each governing state. If there’s a conflict, federal courts overrule state courts.
Marijuana is illegal under federal law. Yet at the same time, it’s now legal in Oregon, Alaska, Washington and Colorado under state law (confusing, I know). All of these state legalisation laws came under the Obama administration, yet his federal government has chosen not to intervene.
Washington, D.C., is another complicated beast of its own. Unique in the political system, the District of Columbia is technically not a state. However, federal law can still override any laws the district passes as decided by Congress. Now more Republican than ever, a conservative Congress may be inclined to do so despite the overwhelming vote for legalisation.
For marijuana advocates, the elections were no doubt a success. The wins gave other states looking to have marijuana legalisation on the 2016 ballot a major boost, such as California and Massachusetts.
According to a U.S. nationwide poll conducted by Pew Research Center in October, 52 percent of those surveyed believe marijuana should be legal. Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and Washington, D.C.