Pubdate: Thu, 06 Nov 2014
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2014 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Suzanna Caldwell
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


In the weeks leading up to Election Day, the fate of Ballot Measure 
2, which would legalize marijuana in Alaska if approved by voters, 
seemed far from certain. So, it was with great relief that 
pro-legalization advocates watched the first results arrive Tuesday, 
showing the measure passing. And supporters believe what tipped the 
balance in favor of legalization may have been an unlikely voting 
bloc: conservatives.

Taylor Bickford, spokesman for the Campaign to Regulate Alcohol Like 
Marijuana, said that heading into Tuesday, Alaska still seemed like a 
question mark despite predictions earlier in the year that made the 
measure's passage seem like a sure bet.

"We felt like we ran a good campaign, were on the right side of the 
issue, but polling on the issue was all over the map," Bickford said. 
"It very much felt like a coin-flip going into election night."

That faded as election results trickled in. The first returns showed 
the measure up by 5 points, a lead it never relinquished as the night wore on.

The campaign noted that Ballot Measure 2 was approved by more voters 
than any other winner in a statewide race. There were 116,803 votes 
cast in favor of the measure, about 1,000 more than went to Rep. Don 
Young's re-election and 6,600 more than U.S. Senate candidate Dan 
Sullivan, who is leading over incumbent Sen. Mark Begich.

Bickford attributed the win in part to the campaign's efforts to 
target conservative voters. Early support for the ballot measure 
seemed high but appeared to dip as the election neared. Bickford said 
in a "red" state with a high-profile Senate race, getting those 
conservative votes was critical.

He also noted that despite targeted efforts from the 
anti-legalization campaign in rural Alaska, that portion of the state 
generally favored the measure, with most Northwest, Northern and 
Interior Alaska precincts voting for legalization. Conservative 
strongholds like the Matanuska Valley and the Kenai Peninsula 
generally voted against the issue, as did the liberal-leaning 
Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

"This was an issue that cut across partisan and geographic boundaries 
and brought together urban voters, rural voters and voters of various 
demographics," he said.

Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy 
Project, said a win in right-leaning Alaska bodes well for states 
like Arizona and Nevada that are expected to take on similar 
legalization efforts in 2016. Overall, he attributed the win to 
changing perceptions more than anything else. He said adults in their 
60s and older spent much of their lives hearing about the horrors of 
marijuana. Conversely, younger people have had less exposure to that 
and view legalization as a topic worth discussing.

"Now young people will grow up knowing it's legal for some states, 
and they will view it more reasonably," Tvert said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom