Legalise marijuana campaign on a roll in US

Oregon and Alaska have become the latest states in the United States to legalise recreational marijuana in ballots hailed by supporters as evidence that a national change of policy is underway.

Voters in both states approved laws that will permit residents over 21 to grow their own marijuana and establish a legal retail trade.

Anthony Johnson, the chief sponsor of Oregon’s Measure 91, compared the victory for the legal sale and use of the drug with the recent end of the state’s ban on gay marriage, saying that voters had struck a blow for freedom and equality.

“We have ended a painful, discriminatory, harmful policy,” he said.

In Oregon, with 75% of the ballot counted, support for Measure 91 had a decisive lead with 54% of votes. In Alaska, the pro-legalisation campaign led with 52% of the vote in the 97% of precincts reporting.

There were victories for more liberal marijuana laws elsewhere too. In Washington DC voters approved possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use – although that move could be blocked by Congress, which holds significant legislative authority over the city.

The Pacific island of Guam became the first US territory to legalise medical marijuana, but a vote on the same issue in Florida fell just short of the 60% threshold that was required for it to pass.

The results in Oregon and Alaska, which followed the legalisation of recreational marijuana in neighbouring Washington state and Colorado two years ago, were cheered by national campaigns as evidence of a gathering movement to challenge federal laws banning the drug.

Earl Blumenauer, a member of Congress whose district includes part of Portland, told a victory party that the momentum from Oregon would spread across the country: “You are going to change national policy,” he said. “The marijuana legalisation train has left the station.” – © Guardian News & Media 2014

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Chris Mcgreal
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