Pubdate: Thu, 07 Nov 2013
Source: Virgin Islands Daily News, The (VI)
Copyright: 2013 Virgin Islands Daily News
Author: Rob Hotakainen, McClatchy Washington Bureau


WASHINGTON - Buoyed by their success at the polls Tuesday, marijuana 
backers say they will now try to get the drug fully legalized in 13 
more states by 2017.

They would join Colorado and Washington state, which voted last year 
to allow pot sales for recreational use.

The drive to legalize won considerable new momentum across the 
country on Election Day as voters in three states approved pro-pot measures.

Portland, Maine, became the first East Coast city to legalize 
marijuana. Colorado approved a 25 percent tax on pot. Voters in the 
Michigan cities of Lansing, Jackson and Ferndale decided to remove 
all penalties for possession.

Portland voters opted to allow residents to possess up to 2.5 ounces 
of marijuana. The campaign ignited controversy after proponents spent 
$2,500 to buy pro-pot billboards on city buses and in bus shelters.

"Most Portlanders, like most Americans, are fed up with our nation's 
failed marijuana laws," said David Boyer, the Maine political 
director of the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group.

While the measure won easily in Maine's largest city, it may be more 
difficult for pro-pot forces to win across the state. Legalization 
backers hope to get the issue on the statewide ballot in 2016.

Officials with Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), an 
opposition group led by former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., 
said they planned to launch a statewide affiliate to gear up for the vote.

"Maine is on the brink of creating a massive marijuana industry that 
will inevitably target teens and other vulnerable populations," 
Kennedy, the group's national chairman, said in a statement. 
"Misconceptions about marijuana are becoming more and more prevalent."

Kennedy said it was time "to clear the smoke and get the facts out 
about this drug."

With a Gallup Poll released last month finding that 58 percent of 
Americans now back legalization, supporters are confident that more 
states will jump on the bandwagon.

Maine is among the 13 states targeted for full-scale legalization by 
the Marijuana Policy Project. The group said it would try to get 
legalization on the ballot in seven states and work to get state 
legislatures to pass it in the other six.

If a petition drive succeeds, Alaska voters are expected to consider 
legalization first, in 2014. In 2016, the group will try to get the 
issue on the ballot in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, 
Montana and Nevada.

They'll try to get state legislators to do the job in Delaware, 
Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Tuesday's votes were the first ballot initiatives since last 
November, when Colorado and Washington state approved 
tax-and-regulate sales plans that will take effect next year.

In Colorado, voters gave the green light to a 25 percent pot tax that 
comprises a 15 percent excise tax to pay for school construction and 
a 10 percent tax to pay for enforcement.

"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, the communications 
director for the Marijuana Policy Project in Denver.

Tvert said the measure would raise millions of dollars each year for 
the state's schools, instead of having the money diverted to drug 
dealers. He said it was "only a matter of time" before other states 
would adopt similar plans.

Many cities in Colorado already are eyeing marijuana as a possible 
source of revenue and are considering ballot measures that would 
impose local taxes on retail pot sales.

So far, nine U.S. cities or towns have voted to legalize marijuana or 
to remove penalties for possession, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

In Michigan on Tuesday, voters in Lansing, Jackson and Ferndale 
joined Detroit and Flint, where residents decided last year to remove 
all penalties for adult possession.

In Colorado, the municipalities of Denver, Breckenridge and Nederland 
had voted to do away with penalties before the entire state voted 
last year to allow recreational use, beginning this Jan. 1.

To fight the efforts, Project SAM officials said they wanted to warn 
the public that legalization could create a "Big Marijuana" 
tobacco-style industry. They said it was time to have an "adult 
conversation" about health effects and the possibility of increased 
drug addiction among teens.

That discussion is already underway in Maine.

"This is not about demonizing or legalizing marijuana, but rather 
educating the public about the most misunderstood drug in the state," 
said Scott Gagnon, who will serve as Maine's coordinator for Project SAM.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom