Youth, liberals lead way on marijuana legalization in Western states


A number of marijuana related ballot questions supported by liberals and young voters are quietly making waves in the American West.

Early Friday evening, the Oregon Secretary of State announced that after gaining enough signatures Initiative Petition 9 will be on the November ballot as Measure 80, also known as The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA). The Act, which can be found here in its entirety, would regulate cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol, allowing the purchase of marijuana in state-licensed stores by those over the age of 21.

Similar legislation just north in Washington will also appear on the state’s November ballot after the legislature adjourned without taking action on the citizen-proposed rule. Supporters gathered nearly 250,000 signatures for the legislation, which also calls for regulation along the lines of how alcohol is handled. The state legalized medical marijuana in 1998.

In Colorado, where medicinal marijuana was approved more than a decade ago, a new rule seeks to further decriminalize the drug by regulating it in a similar way to alcohol. Amendment 64 has been slated for the Colorado ballot since February 27.

In all three states, current polling shows the public favoring putting an end to the prohibition on marijuana, though not always by a large margin. In late June the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found support for Colorado’s Amendment 64 at 46% and opposition at 42%. Democrats and Independents favor its passage while more Republicans are against it. Seniors largely oppose the measure, but every other age group (including young voters by a 58% vs. 33%) supports it.


A June Rasmussen poll showed Colorado’s support for legalizing marijuana even higherat 61% as long as it is regulated in a similar manner to alcohol and cigarettes.

In Washington the numbers are similar. Public Policy Polling showed support has risen a few percentage points from 47% to 50% as of June 19. Again, Democrats and Independents favor legalization, as do those under the age of 65, while Republicans and seniors generally oppose it.

Polling data is not yet available for Oregon. Oregon was the first state in the Union to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis possession, but efforts in 2010 to force a vote on the OCTA failed to gather the 83,000 required signatures.

Should all three states pass measures legalizing the use and regulation of cannabis, a “domino” effect is possible among other “blue states,” but others say we may see a repeat ofGonzales vs. Raich in which the Supreme Court’s decision that the federal government has the right to criminalize marijuana even in states where medicinal marijuana has been approved kicked off a battle on states’ rights.

What’s clear is this: support for cannabis legalization has never been—to indulge an irresistible cliche—higher. Younger, millennial voters support cannabis legalization at rates even Generation X never did, demonstrating where we’re headed.

A recent Gallup poll showed more Americans support legalizing marijuana than ever before.  Liberals, moderates, Independents, and Democrats are leading the charge, as are the young. Support among the 18- to 29-year-old set is pegged at 62%; support among 30- to 49-year-olds is at 56%; and support from the 50 to 64 age group is at 49%. Only 31% of those over 65 favor legalization.

Family interview


My moms and I recently sat down for an interview with my publisher, Penguin Group, to talk about the lessons they’ve taught me over the years. It was a lot of fun to film–and a great reason to stop home!–and I think it turned out really well. Hope you like it!

Check it out here:

Moving Forward

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Hey everyone-

Just saw that MoveOn linked to the video of the testimony. That hearing was actually almost a year ago (January 2011), and I’ve stayed busy since. Doing a lot of work with national LGBT rights groups, speaking at colleges and businesses, working on a book to be published by Penguin-Putnam and still make some time to stop home and see my moms, sister and our new (ridiculously cute) dog Teddy.

Thanks for all the love and support, and please just remember that every single person has an incredible amount of power to shape and change our world for the better. Older generations have paved the road. It’s up to us to paint the lines.

More soon!


Ask me anything


Hey guys,

I’m spending some time over with my friends at Reddit doing an AMA, or “Ask Me Anything” session. Feel free to stop by and ask questions! Link:


Woah, I’m 20! – 7/19/2011

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Time flies during the summer!

I turned 20 on the day the final Harry Potter film came out, which was, among other things, both a bitter sweet and full-circle moment.

I’ve been staying busy getting caught up on all the work that I was *supposed* to get done during this spring, but was otherwise preoccupied from attending to.

The biggest project I’ve been working on this summer is the Iowa City Summer of Solutions chapter. As program coordinator, I’ve been doing my best to facilitate the various projects our group is working on (which include the installation of solar panels on local schools and Iowa City-specific primers on sustainability, among others) and to keep the ball rolling in a good direction. I’m planning on having a few more entries here by the end of the summer, but in the mean time, stop by our website ( to learn more!


Bachmann Rising – 06/26/2011


Yesterday evening, at approximately 10 pm, the Des Moines Register, Iowa’s largest newspaper, released the results of its famed–and simply named–Iowa Poll.

Some highlights:

Romney – 23%

Bachmann – 22%

Cain – 10%

Gingrich – 7%

Paul – 7%

Pawlenty – 6%

The Romney camp should be feeling pretty good, considering Mitt hasn’t spent much time in the state. Team Bachmann ought to be thrilled, seeing as she’s only getting around to actually announcing her campaign (in Iowa, no less) today.  T-Paw, on the other hand, ought to be in full-fledged panic mode.

The Good

Michele Bachmann seems poised to perform quite strongly in the Iowa caucuses.  She was born here in the Hawkeye State, has the lowest unfavorability ratings among all declared candidates (only the unannounced Texas Gov. Rick Perry has lower) and is well known as a conservative’s conservative.

She is outspokenly-religious, has only spent eight days in the state and even wields foreign policy experience, as a member of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.  (That’s a mouthful.)  Fiscally speaking, she is about as conservative as they come:  she’s opposed to raising the debt ceiling, has accused the Federal Reserve of debasing the dollar and has called Paul Ryan’s budget, “an aspirational document.”

Working against Ms. Bachmann is the historical reality that Iowa is one of three states that has never elected a woman to the US Senate, the US House of Representatives or the governorship.  Furthermore, a strong showing in Iowa–as Mike Huckabee can tell you–is not enough to win the nomination.

The Bad

Tim Pawlenty continues to be unimpressive to Iowa voters.  He’s polling below Herman Cain, Ron Paul, and even Newt Gingrich.  Yikes.

Basically, he’s the nice guy that everybody likes, but nobody wants to date.  He shouldn’t be written off, but barring a transformation of Luke Skywalker-esque proportions, he’s done.  He’s already invested heavily in the state and passionately courted party officials.  He has managed to go from, in the words of one GOP insider, “the defacto front runner” to barely edging Rick “will be on the lips of young Repulicans everywhere” Santorum.

The Ugly

The Gingrich campaign continues to develop at lightning speed.  He’s already announced, lost his senior campaign leadership, now lost his fundraising team and is putting up the highest unfavorable numbers of all the candidates in the race.  Hard to see how the former Speaker of the House goes anywhere but down from here.

The Dark Horse

Herman Cain, former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, continues to poll fairly well, pulling in 10% of the vote behind Bachmann and Romney.  His speaking style is well-received by Iowa Republicans, who seem willing to chalk up his business experience as executive experience they can believe in.

Judicial Activism? – 05/26/2011

Like most Americans, I don’t really toe either major party’s line.  Though I’m a registered Democrat, I’m a firm believer in gun rights and the need for balanced budgets, am of the opinion that immigrants should learn English and–like most of my generation–largely unsure how I feel about abortion.

News broke today that a Wisconsin judge struck down the state’s now-notorious anti-union bill.  This will, I’m sure, be hailed by many of my conservative friends as an example of the rampant “judicial activism,” that continues to plague this country.

A friend’s Facebook status about the matter got me wondering about my own ideological consistency on the matter.  More so than triumphing any specific policy, I believe in the worth of intellectual honesty and civil discourse in governmental affairs.  So what about SCOTUS decisions?  When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of corporate speech in Citizens United v. FEC, I was pretty upset.  I’ve never thought that corporations ought to have the same rights as living, breathing people, and it seems to me that the US Constitution does not grant those rights to corporate entities.  I’ve been a pretty outspoken critic of that decision in my writings and among my friends.

And thus, my conservative friends are quick to point out my hypocrisy in my strong opposition to Citizens United but even stronger support of decisions like Varnum v. Brien, which cleared the way for full marriage equality in Iowa, or Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the federal challenge to Prop 8 out in California.  This brings us full circle to today’s ruling about the anti-union law in Wisconsin.

Obviously, both conservatives and liberals are guilty of heralding judicial rulings as either “legislating from the bench” or “protecting our democracy” at some time or another.  Something important to consider, however, is the depth of the ruling, which is to say, the voting margin.  I know that conservative activists like to point at Roe v. Wade as an example of “judicial activism”, yet Roe v. Wade was a 7-2 decision.  This hardly seems like the act of a few rogue justices.  Varnum v. Brien was a unanimous decision, yet critics here in Iowa incessantly cite it as an example of judicial activism.  Really?  Citizens United, on the other hand, was a 5-4 decision.  This seems a little more suspect.

5-4 and 3-2 or single-handed rulings seem, to me, far more likely to be signs of an ideologically driven decision, instead of neutral interpretation of the law.  Let’s be skeptical of these decisions, including today’s ruling in Wisconsin, not unanimous ones.


Minnesota to vote on marriage equality – 05/23/2011

News broke last night that the Minnesota House of Representatives voted 70-63 to approve a measure passed down by the MN Senate, which voted 38-29, to put marriage equality on the ballot in 2012 in the form of a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between “one man and one woman”.  According to CBS, “[c]onstitutional amendments need approval from a majority of state lawmakers and a simple majority of those voting in a general election.”  This from the AP:

The [House] vote split mostly along party lines, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed. Four Republicans crossed over to vote `no,’ and two Democrats voted `yes.’

Three things from the House vote, and forthcoming state vote, immediately grab my attention.

First, more GOP members crossed over in favor of marriage equality than Democrats crossed over against it.  This was not the case in my home state of Iowa, where three Democrats joined all GOP members of the Iowa House.  (There was no vote in the IA Senate.)  I’m going to have to do some digging, but this could very well be the first time we’ve ever witnessed this voting pattern.  I’ll update later to confirm if this is or isn’t the case.  UPDATE: Sorting through all of this data isn’t even the hard part.  Finding it is.  Suffice to say that this is a good pattern to see in the Midwest, and it seems to be a first in the heartland.

Second, the actual vote is nearly a year and a half away.  That’s a long time.  In the last year and a half, national support for marriage equality has flipped, from about 51% opposing and 42% supporting to 51% supporting and 46% opposing.  Two great articles on these numbers from statistician genius Nate Silver here and here.  As Mr. Silver points out, the opinion on marriage equality is shifting at an accelerating pace.  In the last six months, we’ve seen the President of the United States declare the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, the demise of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the beginnings of a concerted push for marriage equality in New York, where the worth of a legislative victory (both nationally and internationally) would be hard to hard to underestimate.  Two observations.

  1. The case for marriage equality does not well lend itself to a soundbite.  A year and a half gives proponents of LGBTQ civil rights the chance to build the dialogue over the course of many months, establishing, piece by piece, the case for equality.
  2. Already, a majority of Minnesotans are opposed to the bill.  A May 13 poll found 55% of Minnesohtans opposed to a ban on gay marriage with only 39% supporting.  This leaves 6% of Minnesotans without an opinion, but puts opposition to the ban well beyond the poll’s margin of error of 4.7 percentage points.  This is, again, a reversal from 2006, when the numbers were flipped, when 54% of Minnesotans were opposed to gay marriage and only 29% of Minnesotans signaled their support.  According to the same article, opposition was at 63% in 2004.  You don’t need to be a statistician to see the trend, here.  (It’s also worth noting that these questions weren’t asking the *exact* same thing, as one is gauging opposition to gay marriage and one is gauging opposition to a measure banning gay marriage, but they’re similar.)

As a side note, back in 2006, Arizona faced a similar situation.  Like Minnesota, marriage was already defined as between one man and one woman by state statute.  And even though Arizona is largely recognized as being a more conservative state than Minnesota, voters shot down the proposed amendment by a 4% margin.

Finally, when MN votes, President Obama’s name will be at the top of the ballot.  In 2008, Minnesota voted for Mr. Obama 55% to 44% with the highest voter turnout in the country at 78.2%, almost twenty points higher than the national average.  The GOP had a good showing in the 2010 election, capturing a Democratic US Representative seat, but still lost the governorship to Democrat Mark Dayton in a close vote, even as participation slumped to 56%.  With Mr. Obama’s now legendary campaign juggernaut gearing up for 2012–and MN unemployment continuing to drop even as gas prices rise–it seems likely that voter turnout will again be in top form, giving an edge to supporters of marriage equality.

I abide by my belief that because civil marriage is a civil right (a notion that has been affirmed by the US Supreme Court thirteen times) it’s not a question that should be put before voters anyway.  Given these three defining elements, however, Minnesota seems on track–barring any unforeseen developments–to vote down the proposed constitutional amendment.

I can’t imagine Michele Bachmann will be too pleased about this.

Rapture? – 05/21/2011

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I’m not one to pass judgment of others for their beliefs.

I have to admit, though, that this was momentarily nerve wracking.

It seems kind of silly, now.  It’s well into the 22nd on the other side of the planet.

Of course, there are so many other things that might actually cause the end of the world.  Nuclear arsenals, climate change, and the hole in the ozone layer, to name a few.  You’d think that things like this might prompt us into acting ways that could lower the likelihood of the world ending in a slightly more tangible way.  Guess not.

Glad we made it, though.

Catch up – 05/20/2011

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I’ve been trying to stay caught up, but haven’t been able to stop by as much as I would like.  The school year is finally over (and it was a sprint through the finish), and I’m taking three weeks off for some R&R.  Come June, I’ll be back out in the world speaking and working to advance marriage equality and pro-family values.  We should be seeing some new additions to the website over the next few weeks.

And before I wrap up, a quick shout out to my moms, Terry and Jackie, who are being honored at the 2011 Matthew Shepard Scholarship Awards Dinner with a pair of Leadership Awards.  I love you guys!