NEW YORK (MainStreet) - Despite a Republican election tsunami, marijuana legalization initiatives passed in most states that floated a referendum for cannabis reform. Voters in Washington D.C., Alaska, Oregon and Florida all went to the ballot box to express their desire either to legalize marijuana or to keep it prohibited, but prohibition was maintained only Florida, where there was a proposal to amend the state's Constitution.
Florida needed 60% of the vote to pass medical marijuana reform, but it got just shy of 58%.
Reaction was mixed.
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"Even though we did not do as well as we wanted to, these slim margins of victory show that we are beginning to slow the legalization freight train down," said former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, an honorary advisor to Smart Approaches to Marijuana in a written statement. "This has been a David and Goliath battle. We were outspent by more than 20-1, but our resolve has gotten stronger."
"Today, the people of Florida strongly and wisely rejected efforts to make Florida the next front in the push to legalize marijuana nationwide," said Drug Free America Foundation Executive Director Calvina Fay regarding Amendment 2's Defeat in Florida. "I am proud that Florida voters saw this amendment for what it really was: a backdoor entrance for the full legalization of marijuana."
Fay's organization issued a written statement: "Efforts to defeat this amendment united a wide coalition of Florida's sheriffs, medical professionals, parents, teenagers, faith-based and pro-family groups, and many other concerned citizens. We are grateful for the time and energy they invested to educate voters and set the record straight on why Amendment 2 would have put Florida's future in jeopardy. The people of Florida have spoken. By rejecting this misguided amendment, they chose to safeguard our communities and ensure a safer and more prosperous future."
"I am saddened about the results in D.C., Oregon, and Alaska," Fay told MainStreet. "I fear that the citizens in these states - and district - have no idea how badly these human experiments can go and how difficult it will be to return things to normal."
Mason Tvert Communications Direction for the Marijuana Policy Project was elated by the results.
"This turned out to be yet another historic election year for the movement to end marijuana prohibition," he told MainStreet. "The victories in Alaska, Oregon and our nation's capital put to rest opponents' claims that voters are second-guessing their support for making marijuana legal. The stage is now set for 2016, when measures to regulate marijuana like alcohol are expected to appear on ballots in at least five states."
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"This year's election confirmed that voters just aren't falling for the scare tactics that have been used for decades to keep marijuana illegal," he added. "They recognize marijuana is not as harmful as they have been led to believe and that the nation's current marijuana policies are not working. With marijuana being successfully regulated and taxed in Colorado and Washington, and with two more states now moving forward with similar systems, it is now clear that there is a viable - and preferable - alternative to prohibition."
Tvert emphasized that educating voters about marijuana will result in continued support for the legalization movement.
"We have no doubt there will continue to be well-funded, high-level efforts to maintain the status quo of prohibition, but political clout and money only go so far when the facts aren't on your side," he said. "More and more states are moving forward with a new, more sensible approach to marijuana policy, and it's really just a question of how quickly the rest will follow."
D.C.'s enactment must wait the approval of Congress. The fact that the GOP has added to its majority - in a size not seen by the party since the 1920s - may mean it will not pass unless the Republican's libertarian wing prevails.
--Written by Michael P. Tremoglie for MainStreet