Collaborative Marijuana Journalism Project

Since 1996, 28 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana or effectively decriminalized marijuana altogether. The 2013 elections were a major milestone in repealing the prohibition of marijuana, with the citizens of Colorado and Washington choosing to legalize its sale. Yet those two states arrived at that election result and created legalization structures that are vastly different from each other, from messaging to voters all the way to implementation. Both states are being viewed as laboratories for legalizing recreational marijuana.

Meanwhile, activists continue chipping away at legalizing at the local level. In 2014, there were four statewide ballot measures that were put for a vote, three of which succeeded: Alaska Marijuana Legalization, Ballot Measure 2; Oregon Legalized Marijuana Initiative, Measure 91; and Washington, D.C. Marijuana Legalization, Initiative 71. (With 58 percent of the vote, the fourth initiative, Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, Amendment 2, failed to receive the 60 percent requirement to pass.) Additionally, there were 25 local ballot measures at the city or county level to decriminalize marijuana or allow medical or recreational marijuana in 2014, about half of which passed. There are already eight states trying to add ballot full legalization ballot measures for the 2016 elections, and multiple local jurisdictions vying for decriminalization in 2015.

What can we take away from the differences in Washington and Oregon, and now Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C.? How will it affect the upcoming 2015 and 2016 elections? What can we learn from medical marijuana policies that exist across the country, particularly those now in states where recreational marijuana has been legalized? Should states or localities focus first on decriminalization, then move on to full legalization? While marijuana is widely used and becoming increasingly accepted, even by non-users, there are so many questions that deserve attention, particularly as more and more states are becoming comfortable with openly defying the federal government.

The Foundation sees an opportunity to take an in-depth look at marijuana laws—proposed and implemented—at the local, state, and federal levels and their impact. The Foundation will create a microsite featuring multiple platforms to tell these stories, including but not limited to written investigative articles, downloadable audio pieces, and infographics. The content produced for the Foundation’s microsite has the potential for great impact. With a few exceptions, there has been very little talking about the big picture of what’s happening across the country. Most of what has been written at the local levels in Washington and Colorado has been superficial — looking at easy issues like the number of stores open, revenue, overall marijuana misdemeanor numbers. There is a real need to spend time going deeper below the surface.

Here are examples of just a few story categories the Foundation is interested in pursuing: the current state of marijuana at local, state, and federal levels; the legacy of marijuana criminalization; the impact of the drug cartels; medical marijuana and its relationship to the current movement towards full legalization; money and marijuana.

To learn more about this project, please contact Tiffany Shackelford at tiffany[at]