NEW YORK — Voters in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia approved ballot measures Tuesday allowing the use of marijuana by adults, elating legalization activists who hope to extend their winning streak across the country.
Oregon and Alaska will join the company of Colorado and Washington state, where voters approved the recreational use of pot two years ago. The District of Columbia is on the same path unless Congress, which has review power, blocks the move.
The District of Columbia’s marijuana measure does not provide for the legal sale of marijuana, leaving that matter up to the D.C. Council.
That’s different from the measures in Oregon and Alaska, which would follow the example of Colorado and Washington state in setting up systems for regulating and taxing retail sales of marijuana.
The Drug Policy alliance, one of the leaders of the legalization campaign, said the results would bolster efforts to push through a ballot measure in California in 2016.
“The pace of reform is accelerating, other states are sure to follow, and even Congress is poised to wake from its slumber,” said Ethan Nadelmann, the alliance’s executive director.
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The campaign in D.C. included a debate about race — the measure’s supporters said blacks in the city had been disproportionately targeted for marijuana arrests.
Gary Fulwood, a support staffer for the city’s fire and EMS department, voted for the initiative.
“The criminal justice system is getting bogged down by marijuana use, and a lot of the people who use marijuana aren’t criminals,” Fulwood said. “I don’t see it being any worse than alcohol.”
In Florida, a measure that would have allowed marijuana use for medical reasons fell short of the 60 percent approval to pass. Amendment 2 had just under 58 percent support.
Relentless advertising saying that the ballot measure would result in a system where marijuana was medical in name only prevailed with voters.
“I truly think that it’s a health and safety issue,” said 68-year-old Veora Little of Naples, who voted against Amendment 2. “It’s the looseness of the law and the ability of children to get yet another controlled substance in a very liberal way.”
The campaign for medical marijuana was among the most expensive ballot measures in the country, with millions spent on both sides of the debate.
Opponents spent more than $6.2 million to spread their message that the shoddy measure was not designed to help the suffering. They had the backing of Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate who gave the bulk of the money raised by the Drug Free Florida Committee, which funded the Vote No on 2 campaign.