Two years after Colorado and Washington State became the first states to legalize sales of recreational marijuana to adults, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., will vote next week on similar ballot measures, reports the New York Times. People on both sides of the issue say these initiatives could determine whether there will be a national tide of legalization. A changing political landscape has weakened anti-marijuana efforts. As the libertarian movement in the Republican Party gained force, with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), supporting decriminalization of marijuana and others going further, an anchor of conservative opposition to legalization has eroded. Democrats have found that supporting legalization, once an invitation to be labeled soft on crime, no longer carries the risk it once did, as discussion of prison overcrowding and law enforcement budgets has reframed the issue.
National groups advocating legalization have provided labor and money, along with help from a legal marijuana industry that did not exist in 2012. The old antidrug coalition has struggled to find traction and money. Supporters of legalization have outdone opponents' fund-raising in Oregon by more than 25 to 1, and in Alaska by about 9 to 1. Opponents in Oregon were late in forming a united organization, and their campaign had only about $10,000 for advertising, with spots running on two Portland radio stations starting last weekend. “They've done a pretty good job of shutting everybody up,” said Joshua Marquis, the district attorney in Clatsop County and an opponent of legalization..