Voters give nod to legal marijuana in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, D.C.
By Shelby Sebens
PORTLAND Ore. (Reuters) - Residents of Oregon, Alaska, and the U.S. capital voted to legalize marijuana on Tuesday, in key victories that could fuel the legalization movement as cannabis usage is increasingly recognized by the American mainstream.
The Oregon and Alaska measures would legalize recreational pot use and usher in a network of retail pot shops similar to those operating in Washington state and Colorado, which in 2012 voted to become the first U.S. states to allow marijuana use for fun.
A less far-reaching proposal in the District of Columbia to allow marijuana possession but not retail sales won nearly 65 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting, unofficial results showed.
The referendums come amid shifts in American opinions on marijuana in recent years that have energized efforts to legalize cannabis, a drug that remains illegal under federal law even as Colorado and Washington state have been given the go-ahead to experiment with legalization.
"In 2016 we're going to push the ball forward in several states until we end prohibition," Leland Berger, a Portland attorney who helped write the new law, told Reuters outside a packed Portland nightclub where advocates declared victory amid pot-centric revelry.
Advocates have portrayed the District of Columbia measure as a civil rights issue, saying studies have shown that African Americans are disproportionately more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than are people of other races.
The D.C. measure had been strongly favored to pass but could still be halted during a review by the U.S. Congress, which has constitutional oversight over the capital. The measure would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to two ounces (57 grams) of cannabis and grow up to six plants.