WASHINGTON — Among the many people nationally eyeing Colorado’s implementation of recreational marijuana is an Alaskan education professor, a Portland, Ore., businessman and a bevy of state lawmakers from Delaware to Hawaii who hope the time has come for a national pot movement.
It seems that Colorado and Washington have made other states more comfortable with full pot legalization.
Alaska is likely next up, with a number of other states apt to follow later this year.
Organizers in Anchorage announced this week they have collected 45,000 signatures from across the state — a number they think will satisfy the 30,169 valid signatures required to get on the August 2014 primary ballot there. This isn’t the first attempt at legalizing pot for Alaskans, who voted down a measure on the ballot in 2004.
“The country wasn’t quite ready for the change then,” said Tim Hinterberger, a professor of medical education at the University of Alaska at Anchorage, who is leading the Alaskan movement. “We really are ready now to drop the war on marijuana hysteria. Colorado and Washington are another indicator that the time has changed.”
Oregon is trying again, too. Voters there put it on the ballot in 2012, but the measure failed.
Portland medical clinic owner Paul Stanford blames the loss on the state not having the national money that flowed to Colorado and Washington last year ahead of their 2012 elections.
Stanford, who is also director of the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp, has until July to collect signatures to make the November 2014 ballot.
“There is a shift in public perception,” Stanford said, noting that Oregon shares a state line with Washington. “Over half the population is within an hour’s drive of the Washington border. That changes the political dynamic.”
Nationally, public opinion has shifted on the issue. A CNN poll out earlier this week found 55 percent of those questioned nationally said pot should be legalized.
The changing sentiment can be attributed to generational replacement, said University of Colorado political scientist Ken Bickers.
Baby boomers, among the first generations that broadly experimented with marijuana, are becoming retirees.
Bickers also said with a few states — including Colorado — already out on the limb, it becomes less intimidating for others to follow suit.
“It’s one of the virtues of federalism,” he said. “Rather than a one-size-fits-all policy approach, let a couple of states work out the kinks. … It’s nice to try out policy measures in more localized ways rather than going national and having one giant debate.”
Beyond the looming ballot measures, the Marijuana Policy Project anticipates a handful of legislatures launching legalization campaigns this year. National polling — and politics — indicate that state legislative bodies in Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont will tackle the issue this year.
Twenty states plus the District of Columbia already have medical marijuana laws in place.
Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Mason Tvert acknowledged that Colorado and Washington’s efforts helped push public opinion. But he calls August 2013 the national tipping point. That month the Justice Department announced it would not stand in the way of full legalization in either Washington or Colorado.
“They’ve (federal officials) made it clear,” Tvert said. “I think a lot of state officials and voters are going to consider that as they weigh in on what to do next.”