Surprisingly, the push to legalize marijuana in Oregon has turned into a tight race. What once looked like a relatively sure thing could now be in some doubt.
A new poll found 44 percent of voters support legalization of cannabis while 40 percent oppose it. That’s a sizeable lead, but it fails to account for the 16 percent of voters who said they were undecided.
Actually, what they said was that they weren’t “certain” to vote for or against the initiative. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re undecided, but it does suggest there’s a large pool of voters who could swing either way.
Oregon has always seemed one of the most likely states to legalize. But voters there rejected the idea in 2012, the same year Colorado and Washington legalized weed.
SurveyUSA conducted the poll for KATU TV in Portland. A previous poll, conducted in August, found 51 percent of voters support the ballot measure.
Older voters strongly oppose Measure 91, as the initiative is known. Voters 65 years or older reject Measure 91 by 28 percentage points. Likely voters between 50 and 64, on the other hand, support legalization by 13 points. Voters aged 35 to 49 back it by 11 points.
The campaign is too close to call in Portland, Oregon’s biggest city, with a 42-42 percent tie, according to the poll. Elsewhere, the initiative leads 47 percent to 38 percent.
The poll also found that Gov. John Kitzhaber has a strong lead over challenger Dennis Richardson. Kitzhaber is a Democrat, while Richardson is a Republican, and Democrats have traditionally been much more open to marijuana reforms.
Oregon is one of two states set to vote on legalization in the fall. The other campaign, in Alaska, is also considered to be a close fight, but legalization seems to have the edge.
If both states rejected legalization, it could be a big setback to the reform movement. If even one of them passes, though, it would be a major victory, proof that more Americans are comfortable with the idea of legal pot.
The legalization campaign in Oregon has become contentious in recent months. A congressman accused opponents of Measure 91 of breaking campaign finance rules when they hired a prominent anti-marijuana figure to speak at events that were supposed to be “informational” only.
Organizers of the tour, which was scheduled to stop in several cities across the state, canceled a summit in Medford in October, saying they didn’t realize the guest speaker, Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, would be electioneering against legalization.