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History of marijuana on the ballot

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Voting on Marijuana
Marijuana Leaf-smaller.gif
Ballot Measures
By state
By year
Not on ballot
Contents
1 Quick hits
2 Overview of marijuana legalization
2.1 Timeline of marijuana legalization via the ballot
2.2 Approval and failure rates by year
2.3 Marijuana measures by topic
2.4 Criminalization of marijuana via the ballot
2.5 Public opinion regarding marijuana
2.6 Marijuana on the ballot in 2014
3 Trends and statistics
3.1 Marijuana measures by year
3.2 List of outcomes with vote totals

Quick hits

  • The first time a marijuana legalization measure appeared on the ballot was in California in 1972.
  • Since 1972, voters in 14 states have voted on 44 marijuana-related ballot measures. Of these 44 measures, 23 (52%) have passed and 21 (48%) have been defeated. One of the 23 measures that passed was a marijuana ban, so overall, legalized marijuana has a lifetime success rate of 50% at the ballot box.
  • The 1990s was the best decade at the polls for supporters of marijuana legalization. In the 1990s, 66% of all marijuana-related measures were approved. One measure was a ban, so the approval rate for marijuana legalization measures in the 1990s was 58%, which is still higher than the 55% approval rate for marijuana measures in the 2010s.
  • Of the 44 historical marijuana measures, 20 (46%) have dealt primarily with medical marijuana, 12 (27%) have extended to recreational marijuana, 10 (23%) have focused on decriminalization, one measure was a marijuana ban, and one measure dealt with marijuana taxation.
  • The first state to legalize medical marijuana was California in 1996. The most recent defeat of a medical marijuana measure was in Arkansas in 2012.
  • Voters in Alaska opted to criminalize marijuana via the ballot in 1990.
  • South Dakota has rejected medical marijuana twice, while Arkansas has rejected it one time. Every other state that has voted against medical marijuana has eventually legalized medical cannabis with a subsequent ballot measure.
  • Alaska, California, Oregon, and Nevada have each rejected legalized recreational marijuana twice.
  • Of the 14 states to vote on statewide marijuana-related ballot measures, Arizona and Oregon have seen the most action, with each state voting on six separate marijuana-related ballot measures.
  • 1998 was the busiest year at the ballot box for marijuana, with seven marijuana-related measures on the ballot in five states. The second busiest year was 2012, which saw voters cast ballots on six marijuana-related measures in six states.
  • Eleven states have legalized medical marijuana via statewide ballot measure, while Colorado and Washington have both legalized recreational marijuana via statewide ballot measure.
  • The marijuana-related ballot measure with the smallest margin of victory is Arizona's 2010 medical marijuana question, which was approved by just 4,340 votes out of 1.68 million votes cast.
  • Four marijuana measures will appear on statewide ballots in November 2014. Twenty-six potential 2014 marijuana measures failed to make the ballot.

Overview of marijuana legalization

Decade Approval Rate
1970s 0%
1980s 0%
1990s 66%*
2000s 42%
2010s 55%

Since 1972, statewide ballots in 14 states have featured a total of 44 ballot measures related to marijuana. These ballot measures have played a major role in the increasing liberalization of statewide marijuana laws. As of September 2014, medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia, while the statewide recreational use of marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington. Of the 23 states permitting medical marijuana, 11 states have achieved legalization via statewide ballot measure and 12 states have seen the state legislature approve medical marijuana.[1] Both states that allow recreational marijuana achieved the law change via statewide ballot measure. In May 2014, the U.S. Congress voted to halt federal prosecutions of medical marijuana users in states that have legalized the drug’s use with a doctor’s prescription.[2]

  • Note: One approved measure in the 1990s was a marijuana ban, meaning 58% of marijuana legalization measures were approved in the 1990s.

Timeline of marijuana legalization via the ballot

The first marijuana-related ballot measure was on California's ballot in 1972. Proposition 19, which would have decriminalized the use of marijuana by adults, was handily defeated, with 66.5% of voters opposing the measure. Twenty-four years later, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana with 1996's Proposition 215. Alaska and Oregon followed suit in 1998. The seven other states that have achieved medical marijuana legalization via statewide ballot measure are Arizona (2010), Colorado (2000), Maine (1999) Massachusetts (2012), Michigan (2008), Montana (2004), and Nevada (2000).

The most recent defeat of a statewide medical marijuana ballot measure took place in Arkansas in 2012. In that election, legal medical marijuana was defeated by 30,000 votes out of over one million votes cast. Supporters of medical marijuana in Arkansas attempted to qualify a measure for the 2014 ballot, but their campaign failed to quality for the ballot.

Just two states have used statewide ballot measures to legalize marijuana beyond medical use. Colorado and Washington both opted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. In a subsequent Colorado measure, voters enacted a statewide marijuana taxation system. Alaska, California, Oregon, and Nevada have each rejected legalized recreational marijuana twice. South Dakota has rejected medical marijuana twice, while Arkansas has rejected it one time. Every other state that has voted against medical marijuana has eventually legalized it via a subsequent ballot measure.

Marijuana measure approval and failure rates by year

The following chart is sortable by column.

Marijuana Ballot Measure Outcomes by Year
Year Measures on Ballot Measures Approved Measures Defeated Percentage Approved Percentage Defeated
1972 1 0 1 0% 100%
1986 1 0 1 0% 100%
1990 1* 1* 0* 100%* 0%*
1996 2 2 0 100% 0%
1997 1 0 1 0% 100%
1998 7 5 2 71% 29%
1999 1 1 0 100% 0%
2000 4 3 1 75% 25%
2002 5 1 4 25% 75%
2004 3 1 2 33% 66%
2006 3 0 3 0% 100%
2008 3 2 1 66% 33%
2009 1 1 0 100% 0%
2010 4 1 3 25% 75%
2012 6 4 2 66% 33%
2013 1 1 0 100% 0%
2014 4 Pending Pending Pending Pending
  • Note: The sole marijuana-related measure in 1990 was an Alaska measure that banned marijuana, which had previously been legal in the state.

Marijuana measures by topic

pChart

Criminalization of marijuana via the ballot

There has been one statewide instance of voters choosing to criminalize marijuana via ballot measure. In 1990, voters in Alaska decided to make all marijuana possession illegal. Prior to the passage of the Alaska Marijuana Criminalization Initiative, adults over 18 were legally allowed to possess up to four ounces of marijuana in their homes and up to one ounce of marijuana in public. Eight years later, Alaskans ultimately opted to decriminalize medical marijuana.

Public opinion regarding marijuana

2013 was the first year in which a majority of Americans reported favoring legalized marijuana.[3] As of 2014, 73% of Americans report being in favor of medical marijuana, while 53% support decriminalizing marijuana possession. In a 2014 survey of likely voters, 40% of respondents said they would be "much more likely" to vote if marijuana legalization issues were on the ballot. An additional 30% said marijuana ballot initiatives would make them "somewhat" more likely to vote.[4]

Marijuana on the ballot in 2014

Medical-marijuana-sign.jpg

Four marijuana-related measures have been certified for the November 4, 2014 ballot. The four states with confirmed marijuana-related ballot measures are Alaska, Florida, Oregon, and Washington.

Alaska's measure seeks to allow people age 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and up to six plants. It would also make the manufacture, sale, and possession of marijuana paraphernalia legal. Florida's measure would legalize the cultivation, purchase, possession, and use of marijuana to treat medical conditions when recommended by a licensed physician. The measure would also order the Florida Department of Health to register and regulate producers and distributors of medical marijuana and to issue identification cards to patients and caregivers utilizing marijuana.

Oregon's measure would legalize recreational marijuana for people ages 21 and older and allow adults to possess up to eight ounces of "dried" marijuana and up to four plants. Washington's measure is an advisory question that will ask voters whether the Washington State Legislature should repeal or maintain the elimination of agricultural tax preferences for various aspects of the marijuana industry.

In 2014, a total of 26 marijuana-related measures failed to qualify for 2014 statewide ballots.

Trends and statistics

Since 1972, voters in 14 states have had the chance to vote on 44 marijuana-related statewide ballot measures. Of these 44 measures, 23 (52%) have passed and 21 (48%) have been defeated. Twenty-two of the approved measures have liberalized marijuana laws, while one of the approved measures banned all marijuana use. This means that overall, legalized marijuana has a lifetime success rate of 50% at the ballot box. Arkansas, South Dakota, and Ohio have never approved a marijuana-related measure, while Maine, Montana, Massachusetts, and Michigan have never defeated a marijuana-related measure. Of the 44 historical measures, 20 (46%) have dealt primarily with medical marijuana, 12 (27%) have extended to recreational marijuana, 10 (23%) have focused on decriminalization, one measure was a marijuana ban, and one measure confronted the issue of marijuana taxation.

Of the 14 states to vote on statewide marijuana-related ballot measures, Arizona and Oregon have seen the most action, with each state voting on six separate marijuana-related ballot measures. 1998 was the busiest year at the ballot box for marijuana, with seven marijuana-related measures on the ballot in five states. The second busiest year was 2012, which saw voters cast ballots on six marijuana-related measures in six states.

Marijuana measures by year

Click a year below to see all marijuana-related ballot measures that appeared on the ballot in a given year.

[edit]

List of outcomes with vote totals

The following chart is sortable by column.

Marijuana on the Ballot from 1972-Present
Name of measure Year Outcome Yes total Yes % No total No %
California Marijuana Legalization, Proposition 19 1972 Defeatedd 2,733,120 33.5% 5,433,393 66.5%
Oregon Marijuana Legalization for Personal Use, Ballot Measure 5 1986 Defeatedd 279,479 26.33% 781,922 73.67%
Alaska Marijuana Criminalization Initiative 1990 Approveda 105,263 54.3% 88,644 45.7%
Arizona Use or Possession of Controlled Substances, Proposition 200 1996 Approveda 872,235 65.4% 461,332 34.6%
California Proposition 215, the Medical Marijuana Initiative 1996 Approveda 5,382,915 55.58% 4,301,960 44.42%
Washington Marijuana Decriminalization, Initiative 685 1997 Defeatedd 659,244 39.57% 1,006,964 60.43%
Alaska Medical Marijuana Act, Measure 8 1998 Approveda 131,586 58.7% 92,701 41.3%
Arizona Medical Use of Schedule 1 Drugs, Proposition 300 1998 Defeatedd 521,603 36.1% 922,462 63.9%
Arizona Probation Eligibility for Drug Offenses, Proposition 301 1998 Approveda 778,807 53.5% 675,941 46.5%
Nevada Medical Marijuana Act, Question 9 1998 Approveda 241,463 58.7% 170,234 41.3%
Oregon Marijuana Possession as a Class C Misdemeanor, Measure 57 1998 Defeatedd 371,967 33.54% 736,968 66.46%
Oregon Medical Marijuana, Measure 67 1998 Approveda 611,190 54.6% 508,263 45.4%
Washington Medical Marijuana, Initiative 692 1998 Approveda 1,121,851 58.97% 780,631 41.03%
Maine Medical Marijuana for Specific Illnesses, Question 2 1999 Approveda 256,387 61.41% 161,114 38.59%
Alaska Marijuana Decriminalization Initiative, Measure 5 2000 Defeatedd 114,321 40.9% 165,321 59.1%
California Proposition 36, Probation and Treatment for Drug-Related Offenses 2000 Approveda 6,233,422 60.9% 4,009,508 39.1%
Colorado Medical Use of Marijuana, Initiative 20 2000 Approveda 915,527 53.53% 786,983 46.47%
Nevada Medical Marijuana Act, Question 9 2000 Approveda 381,947 65.38% 202,211 34.62%
Arizona Marijuana Legalization, Proposition 203 2002 Defeatedd 504,607 42.7% 678,446 57.3%
Arizona Rules Governing Probation for Drug-Related Crimes, Proposition 302 2002 Approveda 803,354 69.8% 348,369 30.2%
Nevada Decriminalization of Marijuana Amendment, Question 9 2002 Defeatedd 196,371 39.13% 305,479 60.87%
Ohio Issue 1, Marijuana Treatment in Lieu of Incarceration 2002 Defeatedd 1,012,682 33.08% 2,048,770 66.92%
South Dakota Measure to Legalize Hemp 2002 Defeatedd 119,990 37.97% 196,060 62.03%
Alaska Legalize Marijuana Act, Measure 2 2004 Defeatedd 134,647 44.3% 169,608 55.7%
Montana Medical Marijuana Allowance, Measure I-148 2004 Approveda 276,042 61.8% 170,579 38.2%
Oregon Medical Marijuana Allowance Measure 33 2004 Defeatedd 764,015 42.8% 1,021,814 57.2%
Colorado Marijuana Possession, Initiative 44 2006 Defeatedd 636,938 41.08% 913,411 58.92%
Nevada Marijuana Initiative, Question 7 2006 Defeatedd 253,725 44.08% 321,913 55.92%
South Dakota Measure 4, Medical Marijuana 2006 Defeatedd 157,953 47.7% 173,178 52.3%
California Proposition 5, Non-Violent Drug Offenders 2008 Defeatedd 5,155,206 40.5% 7,566,783 59.5%
Massachusetts Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative, Question 2 2008 Approveda 1,949,704 62.8% 1,038,523 33.5%
Michigan Medical Marijuana Initiative, Proposal 1 2008 Approveda 3,008,980 63% 1,792,870 37%
Maine Medical Marijuana Initiative, Question 5 2009 Approveda 294,176 58.61% 207,744 41.39%
Arizona Medical Marijuana Question, Proposition 203 2010 Approveda 841,348 50.1% 837,008 49.9%
California Proposition 19, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative 2010 Defeatedd 4,643,592 46.5% 5,333,230 53.5%
Oregon Regulated Medical Marijuana Supply System Act, Measure 74 2010 Defeatedd 627,016 44.21% 791,186 55.79%
South Dakota Medical Marijuana Act, Initiated Measure 13 2010 Defeatedd 115,667 36.69% 199,552 63.31%
Arkansas Medical Marijuana Question, Issue 5 2012 Defeatedd 507,757 48.56% 537,898 51.44%
Colorado Marijuana Legalization Initiative, Amendment 64 2012 Approveda 1,383,139 55.32% 1,116,894 44.68%
Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative, Question 3 2012 Approveda 1,914,747 63.3% 1,108,904 36.7%
Montana Medical Marijuana Veto Referendum, IR-124 2012 Approveda 268,790 57.25% 200,730 42.75%
Oregon Cannabis Tax Act Initiative, Measure 80 2012 Defeatedd 810,538 46.58% 923,071 53.42%
Washington Marijuana Legalization and Regulation, Initiative 502 2012 Approveda 1,724,209 55.7% 1,371,235 44.3%
Colorado Proposition AA, Taxes on the Sale of Marijuana 2013 Approveda 902,181 65.27% 479,992 34.73%

See also

References