Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Ryan P. Burge


Since 1996, numerous states have passed laws to allow use of marijuana for medical purposes. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the drug for recreational use. The two recreational legalization movements, along with many medical laws, were passed via citizen's referendum (passed by the legislature and approved by voters) or initiative (placed on ballot by petition and approved by voters). This paper seeks to examine the link between support for the legalization movements in three states (Colorado, Washington and Oregon) and support for President Obama in the 2012 Presidential Election. Ten different variables are examined to determine support for President Obama's reelection, along with influence of the initiatives on overall turnout. In addition, this paper examines the relationship between legalization for marijuana and support for President Obama in 2012. The findings indicate that legalization provided President Obama support in the 2012 election, although it did not increase turnout. There are also benefits from legalization that help determine why voters support these particular ballot measures. That can be examined using mapping systems to track vote share for initiatives and resulting revenues from marijuana sales taxes