In the over forty years since President Nixon launched the modern “War on Drugs”, there have been only ten statewide voter initiatives to legalize marijuana to successfully make the ballot, according to data compiled by NORML Outreach Coordinator Russ Belville.
Only 23 states currently allow citizens to circulate petitions to get marijuana legalization on the ballot. Of those twenty-three states, only six Western states – Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington – have ever managed to succeed at placing legalization before the state’s voters. These six states account for just ten successes out of a potential 494 opportunities to place legalization on a statewide ballot.
Twice has California voted on legalization. In 1972, Prop 19 attempted to legalize personal use and cultivation without well-defined limits for all adults age 18 and older. It only generated 33.5% support. Twenty-eight years later, another Prop 19 attempted to legalize one ounce of marijuana and a twenty-five square foot personal garden for all adults 21 and older. It generated the greatest support yet, at 46.5%.
Two other states have had two shots at marijuana legalization. Alaska tried to legalize personal use for 18 and older in 2000 and got 40.9%, then tried personal use for 21 and older four years later and got 44.3%. Nevada tried three ounce legalization for 21+ in 2002 and got 39.1%, then four years later lowered the amount to one ounce and got 44.1%.
Oregon tried to legalize personal use for all over age 18 in 1986 and got the lowest support registered, only 24%. Twelve congressional elections later, many attempts have been made to get marijuana legalization on the Oregon ballot and all have failed.
Washington State has never had marijuana legalization on the ballot until this year. Colorado also has legalization on the ballot this year after a failed attempt in 2006 that generated 41.1% support for legalization of one ounce.