The fate of marijuana legalization in two states and the nation’s capital won’t be decided until November, but advocates are proceeding with their 2016 campaigns in a handful of other states.
The Marijuana Policy Project, the advocacy group that played a vital role in helping to pass legalization in Colorado, has formally announced committees to push legalization in 2016 in Arizona, Massachusetts and Nevada, and plans to file paperwork Wednesday with the California secretary of state to form a campaign committee there.
The new committee, the Marijuana Policy Project of California, will begin raising funds immediately to get a measure on the November 2016 ballot, the group said.
“A diverse coalition of activists, organizations, businesses and community leaders will be joining together in coming months to draft the most effective and viable proposal possible,” Marijuana Policy Project Executive Director Rob Kampia said in a statement. “Public opinion has been evolving nationwide when it comes to marijuana policy, and Californians have always been ahead of the curve.”
In 1996, the state became the first in the nation to legalize medical marijuana. The Field Poll, which specializes in public opinion research in the state, found last December that 55 percent of California voters support the legalization of the drug, the first time a clear majority supported such a policy since it began asking about the issue in 1969.
The legalization movement has largely been focused in the West so far. Colorado and Washington were the first to legalize the drug, with sales in both states having begun this year. Oregon and Alaska — as well as D.C. — will pose the question to voters this fall. An early August Public Policy Polling survey found that 49 percent of Alaska voters oppose the measure while 44 percent support it. Support in Oregon was pegged at 51 percent in a June poll by Survey USA. If approved there and, subsequently, in California, the entire West Coast would be legalized.
But the Marijuana Policy Project has its sights on other regions, too. In addition to the 2016 committees formed in Arizona this month and Massachusetts and Nevada earlier in the year, the project plans to focus on legalizing marijuana legislatively in Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont in the coming years, while using the initiative process to achieve the same goal in California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada.