Why Republican Politicians Support Marijuana Reform So Strongly

NEW YORK (MainStreet) - Election Day 2014 made big winners out of recreational users of marijuana in Alaska and Oregon. The two states join the ranks of Colorado and Washington that are profiting from the sale of marijuana's recreational use.

"Oregon and Alaska will move to create the administrative system for marijuana sales, which are expected to begin in both states by 2016," said Michael Swartz, an analyst with Viridian Capital & Research.

In Alaska, voters narrowly approved Ballot Measure 2 on November 4 by 52% compared to 48% who opposed the recreational initiative.

"This latest wave of state legalization will propel the cannabis sector by increasing the flow of capital into legal marijuana companies and setting up a 2016 legalization push in California," Swartz told Mainstreet.

In Oregon 55.9% voted in favor of Measure 91 compared to 44.1% against legalizing marijuana.

"Oregon and Alaska are poised to receive new sources of tax revenue as a result of their new laws, but D.C.'s law, which does not allow for the sale of marijuana, will not produce a new revenue stream," said Aaron Houston, former director of government relations with the Marijuana Policy Strategist and current strategist with Weedmaps.

Residents voting in the District of Columbia did legalize the cultivation of up to six marijuana plants with no more than three being mature and possession of up to two ounces by passing Initiative 71, but it must also be approved by Congress because of its unique status as a district not a state. Under the initiative, adults can give away up to an ounce of marijuana, but sales are still criminal.

"Voters in the District of Columbia passed soft legalization, but [that] does not create cannabis stores," Swartz said.

The state of Florida emerged as the surprise loser after falling short by 2% of a vote that would have legalized medical marijuana. Some 58% approved it but 42% voted against it.

An initiated constitutional amendment, the Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative Amendment 2 required a 60% yes vote to approve it, because the ballot amendment would have required Florida to change its constitution.

"Many observers attribute the failure to errors by the measure's key backers who associated the measure with partisan Democratic politics during a Republican landslide election," said Swartz.

Election night results have positioned marijuana as a hot button issue for the 2016 presidential election despite the historically more liberal Democrats losing seven Senate seats to Republicans.

"While Republican elected officials have traditionally been less supportive of marijuana legalization, we're seeing an evolution among leaders who realize that standing in the way of marijuana reform is bad politics," Houston told MainStreet.

For example, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has said he favors allowing D.C. to implement its legalization law and Kansas Senator Pat Roberts has said he supports letting states decide their own marijuana policies.

"Even though Republicans are typically against the legalization, they are slowly realizing the potential tax revenue legal cannabis can bring to the states," Swartz said.

-Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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