Marijuana is winning all its elections

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

I heard marijuana was on the ballot in a few elections last week. How did it go?


Weed is winning. And it’s not even close. The city of Portland, Maine, just legalized possession (up to 2.5 ounces) and use of marijuana for adults 21 and older. Weed got 67 percent of the vote. Over in Michigan, three cities (Jackson, Ferndale, Lansing) all passed initiatives allowing possession and transfer of up to 1 ounce on private property. All the initiatives got more than 60 percent of the vote.

Add this to the recent Gallup poll showing that 58 percent of Americans are for marijuana legalization, and things are starting to look pretty good for people wanting to put an end to cannabis prohibition. This also bodes well for the legalization efforts planned for 2014 in Oregon and Alaska.

Sidenote to actor Russell Brand, who once said, “I don’t vote, as I believe democracy is a pointless spectacle where we choose between two indistinguishable political parties, neither of whom represent the people but the interest of powerful business elites that run the world”: Any time someone tries to tell me that voting doesn’t work, I show them my medical-cannabis card. Voting works. If it wasn’t so important, Republicans wouldn’t be trying so hard to keep people from doing it. So, I offer congrats to the voters of Portland, Jackson, Lansing and Ferndale. And I remind everyone else to get off of their stoner asses and vote.

I heard that although the state of Oregon is going to allow legal medical-cannabis dispensaries, some cities are still trying to ban pot shops. What’s the deal?

—Joe Jefferson

You heard correctly. Shortly after the Oregon Legislature passed the law (House Bill 3460) allowing medical-cannabis facilities, the Medford City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting businesses that “violate federal law.” Because distributing medical marijuana violates federal law, Medford thought it had a nice little de facto ban on medical-cannabis shops.

But Rep. Peter Buckley, a Democrat, asked for a review of H.B. 3460 to determine whether local governments can do what Medford did. And guess what? According to the OLC, cities in Oregon cannot try to get around state law by passing de facto bans.

Check this from Charles D. Taylor, senior deputy legislative counsel: “We conclude that while a municipality may not be required to violate federal law to comply with a conflicting state law, a municipality may not act contrary to state law merely because the municipality believes that the action will better carry out the purposes and objectives of federal law.” Furthermore, he states that H.B. 3460 “preempts most municipal laws specifically targeting medical marijuana facilities.”

And while this statement from the OLC is nonbinding, it means that if a club wants to challenge the Medford ban, they have an excellent legal footing. It’s about time someone stood up to these prohibitionists and for medical-marijuana patients. So thank you, Peter Buckley.