Are Northwest voters ready to legalize pot?

Originally published on July 6, 2012 4:15 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – It looks like voters in both Oregon and Washington will decide this fall whether to legalize recreational marijuana. Backers of an Oregon ballot measure submitted a final batch of petitions Friday to the Secretary of State. In Washington, a pot legalization initiative has already qualified for the ballot. The question now: are Northwest voters ready to say ‘okay’ to getting high?

If when you hear the word “marijuana” you still think of Cheech and Chong then get ready for a new marijuana branding campaign this fall. It’s designed to banish from your mind images of bandanas, beards and big fat joints.

Here’s a cleanly shaven Peter Holmes last year. He’s Seattle’s city attorney and a major backer of Initiative 502 to legalize pot in Washington

“Ending marijuana prohibition would free law enforcement.”

Gone are the stoner slackers of the '70s. They’ve been replaced by button down suit and tie guys. Take Paul Stanford standing on the steps of the Oregon statehouse after submitting 165,000 voter signatures to place the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act on the fall ballot.

Like Peter Holmes he’s serious about legalizing Mary Jane.

“We believe we’re going to create tens of thousands of living wage jobs and put Oregon on the cutting edge of exciting new economic development,” he says.

But where are voters on this question? Pollster Stuart Elway says Nancy Reagan’s words still reverberate.

“There certainly is a strong ‘say no to drugs’ contingent here.”

Even so, Elway says Washington voters are basically divided over the question of pot legalization. He thinks backers of I-502 aren’t smoking something to think they have a shot.

“We’re expecting this year a large turnout," Elway says. "A younger turnout because it’s a presidential year.”

In Oregon, sponsors are bullish. But two years ago, Oregon voters soundly rejected a marijuana dispensary measure.

So which state -– Oregon or Washington -– is more likely to legalize pot? If it’s a left-right issue, veteran Oregon political analyst Bill Lunch gives the edge to Washington.

“I think there’s plenty evidence from recent elections that Washington is to the left of Oregon," he says. "At least in terms of voting behavior.”

Even if Northwest voters say “yes” to pot this fall, that doesn’t mean Cheech and Chong are suddenly law abiding citizens.

It’s still against federal law. That could mean lawsuits, injunctions and a long waiting game while the courts sort things out.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

On the Web:

Oregon Cannabis Tax Act - full text:

http://oregonvotes.org/irr/2012/009text.pdf

Washington Initiative 502:

http://sos.wa.gov/_assets/elections/initiatives/i502.pdf

Copyright 2012 N3. To see more, visit http://www.nwnewsnetwork.org/.