The campaign to legalize marijuana in the nation’s capital has settled on its slogans for D.C. voters.
The two lines were not tested with focus groups or polled for impact, but campaign chairman Adam Eidinger said he is confident that organizers have nailed it.
The simple message that voters will continue to see on bright-red posters for Initiative 71 remains the same: “Legalize.”
In smaller text, there will now be two more ideas: “Vote to refocus police priorities” and “legalization ends discrimination.”
Eidinger said the police line hints at an idea that resonated with 57,000 voters who signed petitions to put the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot: “The one thing that really turns people is the idea that police can be doing more important things,” Eidinger said. “‘Refocus police priorities’ is a nice way of saying ‘get the police off our back.’”
And the second one, “legalization ends discrimination,” is a reference to the civil rights and civil liberties studies that helped prompt the D.C. Council this year to decriminalize, limiting tickets for possession of small amounts to $25.
The studies found that D.C. police had among the highest arrest rates for marijuana possession in the country and that African Americans accounted for eight out of 10 arrests.
Initiative 71 would go beyond decriminalizing marijuana. It would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and to cultivate a small number of marijuana plants at home. Marijuana could also be freely passed to others without an exchange of money.
To not directly contradict federal drug laws that could have kept the measure off the ballot in the District, the initiative leaves it up to the D.C. Council and mayor to develop a system to legalize the sale and tax of the plant, potentially putting D.C. behind Colorado and Washington as the third to do so.
A Washington Post poll taken early this year suggested that the measure has a good chance. Respondents said they supported legalization by a margin of almost 2 to 1, much more than the slim majority nationwide that supports it.
Eidinger said the group decided to leave “Legalize” as the main message because of its simplicity.
“I still think there are a lot of people in this city who don’t understand what this is about. . . . You don’t even have to get into the specifics; that just confuses people.
“‘Legalize,’ there are so many ideas of what that’s about,” Eidinger said, “it’s easier not to be specific.”