KEIZER, Ore. — Two years after voters in Colorado and Washington State broke the ice as the first states to legalize sales of recreational marijuana to adults, residents of Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., will vote next week on ballot measures patterned on those of the two pioneers. People on both sides of the issue say these initiatives could determine whether there will be a national tide of legalization.
A changing political landscape has weakened anti-marijuana efforts. As the libertarian movement in the Republican Party has gained force, with leaders like Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, supporting decriminalization of marijuana and others going even further, an anchor of the conservative opposition to legalization has eroded.
And Democrats have found that supporting legalization — once an invitation to be labeled soft on crime — no longer carries the risk it once did, as public discussion of prison overcrowding and law enforcement budgets has reframed the issue.