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Oregon May Legalize Marijuana in November

The state will vote on legalization, along with Washington and Colorado. Advocates tell The Fix that success—in the end—is inevitable.

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By Chrisanne Grise

07/16/12

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Late last week, Oregon joined Washington and Colorado on the list of states whose voters will have the chance to legalize marijuana in November. If they pass Measure 80, Oregonians could be purchasing pot legally as soon as January 1. But public opinion is split: a survey last month found that 43% of respondents in the state believed pot should be legalized, while 46% wanted it to remain illegal. Recent polls show higher support in the other two states: 50% in Washington and 61% in Colorado

Advocates remain hopeful, but these numbers may still not be high enough—history shows that with marijuana reform laws, momentum is generally lost during campaigns, rather than gained. "A betting person might make a bet strongly that none of these are going to succeed, that they're all going to fail within very, very high pluralities," Allen St. Pierre, executive director of pot advocacy group NORML, tells The Fix. "But certainly, NORML is very hopeful that one of these is going to get into the majority, which will then set up a tremendous conflict with the federal government that will hopefully resolve itself, as it usually does, in favor of the state rather than the federal government."  Should marijuana be legalized in any of these states come November, they will be in violation of federal and international law, so the better solution may be to go through the court system. "The argument is made here, that this ought to be a nation-wide reform, and have Congress—from our biased-point of view—fix the problem it started in 1937 by making marijuana illegal and having it go from the top down," says St. Pierre.

Regardless of the outcome this fall, St. Pierre sees the legalization of marijuana as a fait accompli—it's just that it may take years to get there. “It’s pretty clear that this issue is not going away for some years to come because of the public opinion swinging so quickly in favor,” he tells us. Projections estimate that at the current rate of movement, public approval for legalizing marijuana may not reach a crucial majority until 2021. However, "At some point, another state will take another bite of the apple and somebody will eventually get a majority.” This fall, Montana and Nebraska are also considering legalization initiatives, and Massachusetts will have medical marijuana on the ballot. Advocates have a long road ahead no matter what the outcome, but feel that getting these initiatives on the ballots is a good start. “There is a schism between the federal and state governments and the more and the more these states keep either passing voter initiatives or legislation," St. Pierre argues. "It’s only going to create greater friction with the federal government, agitating them towards some degree of reform." 

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