US midterm elections: Where are marijuana legalisation votes are happening today

As America prepares to vote in the mid-terms, a handful of states are also set to decide on whether to relax their marijuana laws

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The Independent US

As Americans prepare to vote for in today’s midterm elections, there will be another issue on the ballot paper for voters to decide on in a small number of US states.

Voters in Alaska, Oregon, Washington DC, Florida and some areas of Maine will today decide on whether to loosen their respective laws surrounding marijuana possession, use and production.

While marijuana possession is still seen as a Federal crime in the US, in 2012, under growing pressure, the Obama administration allowed the states of Washington and Colorado to vote by ballot initiative on whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

In November 2012, both Washington and Colorado voted through an initiative that saw marijuana possession and small-scale cultivation for medicinal recreational use legalised for those over 21. This paved the way for marijuana for recreational use to be sold legally in the states and in January this year the first marijuana shops opened in Colorado, soon followed by Washington’s first shops in July.

Now some other states and cities are looking to follow these two states, by going to the ballots to reassess their own respective laws surrounding the sale of marijuana, its possession and its cultivation.

Below is a run-down of which states are voting and what the change in laws will mean

Alaska – Following Colorado and Washington, Alaskan’s are set to vote through laws that will see marijuana become a product that can be regulates and taxed by state authorities, similarly to cigarettes and alcohol. The new law would also let people aged 21 and over be allowed to possess marijuana and grow a limited amount of plants without fear of criminal recriminations. According to observers, Alaska is set to be the closest race of them all, with the latest polls unable to decide on a clear favourite.

Oregon – Like Alaska, voters in Oregon will be voting on whether to legalise recreational use and the sale of taxable marijuana.  In 2012, the citizens of Oregon voted against legalising marijuana by 56 per cent to 44 per cent; however, there has been more than $3 million pumped into campaigning by legalisation backers this time round. The most recent polls to come out of Oregon show that those supporting the new bill are just two percentage points behind those against. Washington, District of Columbia – In the country’s capital, voters will decide on whether to reduce criminal penalties for possession.  Under the new laws, users will be allowed to possess up to 2 oz of marijuana and grow nearly six marijuana plants at home. It is generally assumed that the vote will be supported by those in Washington.  A poll released last month by the Washington Post ended up 65per cent to 33 per cent in favour of the new law. 

Florida – Florida will make a decision on whether marijuana can be permitted for medicinal reasons. As a constitutional amendment it must receive over 60 per cent of the vote and so far polls have ended up on each side of the debate. If voted through, it will join the 23 other US states that currently allows marijuana possession for those that can prove a medicinal need.

Read More: US midterm election: Outcome is likely to be a more conservative America

Maine - The cities of Lewiston and South Portland will also consider a citywide ballot to vote on whether to remove all legal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults aged 21 and older. The two cities are following the example of Maine’s largest city Portland, who in 2013 decided to legalise marijuana possession for those carrying anything below 2.5 oz of the drug.