The results of yesterday’s mid-term elections are in—and they serve as further evidence that the tide is turning on the issue of marijuana legalization. However, they also illustrate that a significant number of Americans are not eagerly hopping on the legalization bandwagon, suggesting concern that the risks may outweigh the benefits.
Following Colorado and Washington State, Oregon and Alaska became the third and fourth states to legalize recreational pot. A marijuana initiative also passed in Washington, D.C., but this legislation legalizes use, but not retail sales, of the drug. These three measures passed with varying levels of support: Voters approved legalization by a margin of 55% in Oregon, 52% in Alaska, and 69% in the District of Columbia.
Despite these wins for legalization advocates, yesterday’s elections did not paint a picture of a country ready to embrace legal pot on a national scale. In Florida, voters did not pass a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. The amendment needed 60% of the vote to pass, but received about 57% support. Several local measures were also rejected, including a referendum in Lewiston, Maine that would have legalized possession of small amounts of pot.
The defeat of these measures reflects concern about the mixed results of legalization in Colorado and Washington. Although advocates claim that these states will reap the rewards of increased tax revenue, others—including many medical professionals, parents, and policymakers—have questioned whether these funds will be enough to offset the costs. For example, less than a year into its marijuana experiment, Colorado is struggling to address the unforeseen rise of edible marijuana products, which are particularly risky because of their unknown dosage and potency, and because of their appeal to young people.
Due to these and other consequences, Coloradoans may not be touting legalization as an undisputed success. In Lakewood, Colorado, residents passed Measure 2A, which outlaws retail sales in the state’s fifth most populous city. Four other Colorado cities also voted down marijuana sales.
While some headlines assert that “Marijuana Has Gone Mainstream,” a closer look at the election results reveal a much more nuanced perspective. We will continue to monitor the outcomes of legalization and advocate for a response based on a robust, objective analysis of the facts.