Campaigns to become the first U.S. states to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Washington and Colorado have raised $3 million ahead of a November vote, far outpacing the opposition. Proponents of pot legalization in Washington state have raised nearly $2 million since the initiative qualified for the ballot in January, and about $1 million in Colorado since its measure earned a place on the ballot the following month, according to the most recent state campaign figures.
In Oregon, where a voter referendum qualified in July, the legalization campaign reported less than $1,000 in contributions. All three state measures go on the ballot in November, when Americans vote for president and other offices. With their war chests, backers of legalization drives in Washington state and Colorado have already bought television ads in a bid to convince voters, especially those who have never smoked pot, of merits of legalizing and taxing it.
Legalizing the drug for recreational purposes would run afoul of the federal government, which says that marijuana is a dangerous narcotic. The referendums in the three Western states, among the 17 that already allow marijuana for medical purposes, comes as some states battle with the federal government over its raids of medical marijuana dispensaries. “If one of these initiatives wins, it will really be a breakthrough,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which seeks alternatives to the current U.S. policy to combat drug use.
“And in the end, just as there has been a federal-state conflict involving medical marijuana, we anticipate there will be similar conflicts when states begin to legally regulate marijuana like alcohol,” he said. “But the only way we think change can happen is through this process.”
Polls indicate support in Colorado and Washington for legalizing pot.
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