DC, Oregon, and Alaska Just Voted to Legalize Marijuana

But Congress could still bum their high in the nation’s capital.

Portlandia, <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/30461729@N05/2886157280/in/photolist-5p3j1q-5oY2Bi-5p3iUQ-5p3iWU-8jjVYb-5p3bJG-5oXUqe-5p3iVd-5p3iW5-79Pd9j-5nDWTg-5pcvyz-5nDWWB-5qbX7L-8jgygD-8jjXas-5P3e4T-5oXUgF-5pBmhv-8jgG92-7pYoXp-5oXUoD-5rcvcp-5nJd93-5oXUjc-5oXUin-5nDX9r-5oXUoZ-5p3iZL-5o6nWo-5p3iWu-5p3bDs-5pcvyi-5p3iYQ-5nDWUM-5sFrtb-5oXUng-5P7uVh-5o28XD-gWUTKu-5p3bFN-kAVnzV-5wr6jM-5wgNC8-5P7uLA-5yZxoM-5hUxwc-68uHkN-5hpN2r-5hu8TA">SP4VP08</a>/Flickr, <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/8566546692/in/photolist-e3Ubce-e3ZMF3-e3ZMSU-e3Uawi-e3ZLMQ-e3UaeX-atGRcZ-atH1PH">Gage Skidmore</a>/Flickr

Oregon and Alaska are renowned for their pot-smoking libertarians, hippies, and hipsters, but they’re no match for the blazer-and-khaki-clad stoners in the nation’s capital. That’s right. DC’s marijuana legalization measure, Initiative 71, which was predicted to sail through by a 2-1 margin, has officially passed by an even larger margin. Okay, not officially passed, but, you know, the big media guys called it and…and…what was I writing about again?

Oh, yeah. So, pot easily passes in DC and, by a smaller margin in Oregon, and by just two points in Alaska. How to explain this, other than Sen. Mitch McConnell’s well-known addiction to Grand Daddy Purp?

“Blacks make up about half of the district’s population, but accounted for 90 percent of its arrests for drug possession last year.”

If the DC vote caught you by surprise, then consider our capital’s long, intimate relationship with the cannabis plant. The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. George Washington urged his gardener to “make the most” of Indian hemp seed, which, translated into modern English, obviously means cooking it into hash oil and smoking dabs from an oil rig. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about then you clearly don’t live in DC.) The point is, DC was cool before Portland even fucking existed.

When I was in college in the late 1990s, I visited DC, where I bought some low-grade pot from some young black dude on the street. Such purchases happen all the time in DC, and when things go wrong, it’s usually the young dealer, not the stoned college kid, who winds up in jail. The disparities are well known within the District’s African American community: Blacks make up about half of the DC population but accounted for 90 percent of its arrests for drug possession, according to a study last year. And while, according to the Washington Post, African Americans in the District once tended to oppose legalization for fear it could lead to more young blacks getting addicted, they now support it as the same rate as whites do.

The most obvious reason that DC suits could get legal pot is that there’s no rural DC—unless you count the cherry trees around the Washington Monument, which I don’t. However, this map shows the vast swath of Oregon hinterlands that backed Mitt Romney in 2012. That tiny blue sliver resembling the Gaza Strip is Portland.

Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland has already pledged to “blunt” legal pot in DC.

But pro-pot voters in DC still face an uphill battle. While Washington is the most liberal place in America after San Francisco, (so says The Economist), it is also home to Congress, a slightly less progressive institution, which happens to control the District’s purse strings and has 30 days to review and nullify any new DC law. Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland, pictured above (he’s the guy without the tea), has pledged to “blunt” the DC pot rule, as Politico aptly put it. Getting the rest of Congress to follow suit might get a lot easier if, as some pro-pot campaigners fear, thousands of ecstatic stoners spark up on the streets tonight.

These legalization measures weren’t the only marijuana initiatives on the ballot Tuesday. Florida was supposed to be the first state in the South to legalize medical marijuana, but support for the measure took a nosedive, and it has lost by a fairly big margin. (Slate‘s Michael Ames blames “dysfunctional partisanship.”) There are also local measures on the ballot in several states. And for what it’s worth, a medical-marijuana referendum passed today by a 12-point margin in Guam, which is certain to give a boost to this song:


as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.


as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.