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Marijuana "Lowest Priority" Initiative Advances in Maine City

A municipal initiative that would make adult marijuana possession the lowest law enforcement priority in Portland, Maine, has handed in enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, organizers said at a press conference Tuesday. Sensible Portland, the group pushing the measure, said it had turned in 2,100 voter signatures, well above the 1,500 needed for it to qualify.

City Hall in Portland. The city council can approve the initiative or let the voters decide. (image via
The measure would amend city statutes to codify that marijuana possession offenses committed by nonviolent adults 21 or older would be the lowest law enforcement priority for city police. The proposed ordinance is aimed at stopping police from fining or arresting people for pot or pot paraphernalia possession.

The possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana is already decriminalized under state law, with a fine of up to $1,000. Pot paraphernalia possession is also decriminalized, with a maximum fine of $300. Possession of more than 2.5 ounces is considered possession with intent to distribute and is punishable by jail or prison time.

Sensible Portland leaders said they hoped the measure would spur "an adult conversation" about marijuana across the state and that the ultimate goal was marijuana legalization.

"To be clear, we hope that this measure is a step toward the eventual end of prohibition of marijuana in this country," said John Eder, a spokesman for Sensible Portland and a former Green Party state representative. "This local ordinance isn't a small thing," he added in remarks reported by the Portland Daily Sun.

"Most movements start locally, and this movement will have its effect on the state, and it will have its effect nationally, as Maine joins the chorus of states and cities that are going on record saying they want to end the prohibition of marijuana for persons over the age of 21," Eder continued.

The city clerk now has two weeks to verify that the 2,100 signatures turned in contain the 1,500 valid signatures needed to qualify. If that happens, the measure first goes to the city council, which can either vote to approve it or place it on the November 8 ballot.

Sensible Portland saw broad support for the measure during the signature-gathering campaign, said Anna Trevorrow, a former state Green Party chair. "We met with great response from Portland voters who were signing eagerly, who were not sure why marijuana was not already legal," she said, adding, "We feel that this goes beyond decriminalization."

Portland, ME
United States

Mississippi Tea Partiers Push Welfare Drug Testing Initiative

Mississippi Tea Party groups are busily collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would require welfare recipients and state employees to undergo drug testing. The measure, officially known as Ballot Initiative #33, is part of a broader push by Mississippi Tea Partiers against "un-Constitutional welfare programs" and illegal immigration. The initiative would also require anyone receiving state benefits to prove his or her US citizenship.

(image via
While the umbrella Mississippi Tea Party is playing a role in supporting the initiative campaign, most of the energy behind it appears to be based in the Mississippi Gulf Coast 912 Project, an influential South Mississippi Tea Party group affiliated with conservative former Fox News program host Glenn Beck's national 912 Project.

The Mississippi Tea Party sent a December letter to legislators demanding that they take action to drug test welfare recipients, act against illegal immigrants, reactivate the legislature's un-American activities panel, and nullify a number of federal programs under the rubric of state sovereignty, among other proposals. When the legislature failed to pass welfare drug testing, Ballot Initiative #33 was the result.

"Initiative #33 would amend the Mississippi Constitution to require that persons receiving public assistance, as well as state contractors, subcontractors, and state employees, must undergo random drug testing," says the initiative's official summary. "Failing two drug tests results in loss of benefits. Persons not currently receiving public assistance must pass drug testing before receiving benefits. This initiative also requires that persons residing in the state illegally are prohibited from receiving public assistance or state salary of any kind."

The initiative, a proposed constitutional amendment, is broader than the failed bill it substitutes for. It also includes state contractors, subcontractors, and employees.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast 912 Project needs to collect 90,000 valid voter signatures by mid-October, which is the deadline for getting the initiative on the 2012 ballot. If organizers can't gather 90,000 signatures by mid-October, but can get over the top by the next deadline, mid-December, they could qualify it for the 2012 ballot.

The random, suspicionless drug testing of welfare recipients was thrown out by a federal appeals court as unconstitutional -- a violation of the Fourth Amendment's proscription against unwarranted searches -- when Michigan tried it a decade ago. Another such program went into effect July 1 in Florida, and will face a similar constitutional challenge. If Initiative #33 is ever enacted, Mississippi taxpayers will be the next to have to defend an already invalidated program.

United States

Montana Judge Blocks Restrictive Medical Marijuana Provisions

A state judge has blocked some of the most onerous provisions of a new law designed to rein in Montana's medical marijuana industry from taking effect. But other provisions of the law, which will make life more difficult for patients and providers, are now in effect.

medical marijuana containers and vaporizer (image via wikimedia)
District Court Judge James Reynolds issued a preliminary injunction late Thursday to block those portions of the law from going into effect hours later. But the rest of the repressive "reform" is in effect as of July 1.

Reynolds ruled that lawmakers went too far in trying to clamp down. He blocked a provision of the new law that outlawed anyone making money in the business, including growers being compensated for their efforts. He blocked the law's ban on advertising and promotion of medical marijuana. And he threw out the new law's provision limiting providers to growing for no more than three patients.

"The court is unaware of and has not been shown where any person in any other licensed and lawful industry in Montana -- be he a barber, an accountant, a lawyer or a doctor -- who, providing a legal product or service, is denied the right to charge for that service or is limited in the number of people he or she can serve," Reynolds wrote.

Those provisions in the law "will certainly limit the number of willing providers and will thereby deny the access of Montanans otherwise eligible for medical marijuana to this legal product and thereby deny these persons this fundamental right of seeking their health in a lawful manner," Reynolds continued.

The lawsuit against the new law was brought by the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, which is also organizing a referendum effort to block the law from going into effect until it can go before the voters in November 2012. Montana voters approved the old, less restrictive, medical marijuana law in 2004 with 62% of the vote.

The association called the ruling "a partial victory," noting that "caregivers" have been eliminated and must now become registered "providers." "This, of course, temporarily breaks down the entire system, Yet, it was clearly the judge's intention to allow commercial activity," the group noted.

For a more detailed look at the new law and how the judge's order modified it, visit this Montana NORML web page.

Helena, MT
United States

New Washington State Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed

A high-powered coalition of state and local elected officials, public figures, and attorneys filed a marijuana legalization initiative with Washington state officials June 22. Known as New Approach Washington, the group is aiming to put the measure before voters in the November 2012 elections.

The initiative is distinct from the Sensible Washington initiative campaign, which had hoped to put its measure before voters in November 2011. The Sensible Washington initiative now appears unlikely to make the ballot because with little more than a week left until it must turn in signatures, it has less than half the required amount and little money to pay signature-gatherers.

Key features of the New Approach Washington initiative include:

  • Distribution to adults 21 and over through state-licensed, marijuana-only stores; production and distribution licensed and regulated by Liquor Control Board (LCB).
  • Severable provision (e.g. provision would stand if courts invalidated other provisions) decriminalizing adult possession of marijuana; possession by persons under 21 remains a misdemeanor.
  • Stringent advertising, location, and license eligibility restrictions enforced by LCB.
  • Home growing remains prohibited; except, initiative does not affect Washington's medical marijuana law.
  • Estimated $215 million in new state revenue each year, with roughly $40 million going to state general fund (B&O and retail sales tax) and $175 million (new marijuana excise tax) earmarked for youth and health programs and marijuana education programs.
  • THC blood concentration  of 5 ng/mL or higher is per se Driving Under the Influence.

Among the backers of the initiative are Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, former US Attorney for the Western District of Washington (and prosecutor of Marc Emery, ironically) John McKay, travel program celebrity Rick Steves, state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D-Seattle), and ACLU of Washington drug policy honcho Allison Holcomb, who is stepping down temporarily to run the campaign.

The group will have until December 30 to gather 241,153 valid voter signatures to put the issue before the legislature. The legislature could then approve the measure or send it to voters in the November 2012 election.

It's starting to look like marijuana legalization will be on the ballot in at least three, and possibly four, states next year. Efforts are already underway in California, Colorado, and Oregon.

United States

Montana Approves Medical Marijuana Initiative Petition

The state of Montana Tuesday officially approved the petitions medical marijuana advocates want to circulate in an attempt to suspend or overturn a highly restrictive medical marijuana law approved by the legislature this year. Secretary of State Linda McCulloch notified the initiative's sponsor, the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, that Attorney General Steve Bullock had found the petition's language legally sufficient.

The changes in the law, which would wipe out the state's heretofore thriving dispensaries, are set to take effect Friday. But that might not happen. The association filed suit in district court seeking to temporarily block the new law. District Judge James Reynolds of Helena is expected to issue an order Thursday blocking parts or all of the law from taking effect.

Signature gathering will begin after the association trains the hundreds of volunteers who will be collecting signatures, association spokeswoman Kate Cholewa told The Missoulian Tuesday.

"We want to get everyone trained and trained well," Cholewa said. "There will be some petitions out on the street over the Fourth of July weekend. Everyone wants to do something to contribute, and this is certainly an opportunity."

To suspend the new law, organizers must obtain the signatures of 15% of the voters in 51 of the 100 House districts. That will mean somewhere between 31,238 and 43,247 valid signatures, depending on which House districts are used.

Signatures must be turned in by September 30. If enough voters reject the new law, the 2004 medical marijuana initiative that became law with 62% of the vote would be back in effect.

Montana's medical marijuana melee is far from over.

Helena, MT
United States

Marijuana Legalization Initiatives Filed in Colorado [FEATURE]

A coalition of Colorado and national drug reform groups Friday filed eight initiatives designed to amend the state constitution to legalize marijuana. It was the opening move in an effort to put the question to Colorado voters on the November 2012 ballot.

The first steps have been taken toward letting any Colorado adult grow six of these legally. (Image courtesy the author)
The groups lining up behind the initiatives are SAFER, Sensible Colorado, the Drug Policy Alliance, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the Marijuana Policy Project, NORML, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy, as well as prominent Colorado marijuana attorneys and members of the state's thriving medical marijuana industry.

While the initiatives vary slightly from one another -- part of a bid by organizers to ensure they come up with the best language and pass the scrutiny of state election officials -- they all have as their core the legalization of the possession of up to an ounce by adults over 21, the legalization of the growing of up to six plants and possession of their yield, and the creation of a system of regulated commercial marijuana production and sales. (See the draft language for the base initiative here.)

The initiatives do not allow for public consumption. Nor do they protect "stoned driving" or protect workers from being fired by employers who object to their marijuana use.

"This is basically eight variations on a single initiative," said SAFER's Mason Tvert. "One version has industrial hemp, one doesn't. One version has specific language dealing with Colorado tax law, one doesn't. But otherwise, there is virtually no difference."

The initiatives now head to the state's Title Setting Review Board, which will determine whether they meet the state constitution's single-subject requirement and come up with titles for the initiatives. The initiatives could be revised based on issues and concerns that might arise during review with board staff, Tvert said.

"We want the best possible ballot title," he said. "They will create a draft title, and then we will be able to submit what we think, then there is a hearing to determine what the title should be. This is the very beginning of a long process. If one or two get shot down, we still have other possibilities. If one gets a ballot title we don't like, we still have the ability to re-file something else."

"We starting drafting this back in January," said Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente. "We've seen a historic and unprecedented coalition of every major drug policy reform group involved in the drafting. I'm not aware of anything like that before. And SAFER and Sensible Colorado have been active in reforming marijuana laws full-time since 2004 and 2005, respectively. We have a giant network of collaborators on the ground."

But not everybody is happy. In an ominous harkening back to last November's election, a "Stoners against Prop. 19"-style opposition has already emerged. The Boulder-based Cannabis Therapy Institute (CTI), which is working on its own Relegalize 2012 initiative, came out swinging in a press release last Friday. Calling the coalition behind the initiatives "a conservative faction of national and local drug policy reform groups," the institute's Lauro Kriho said their initiatives would "attempt to undermine" advances by the marijuana movement in the state.

She criticized the initiatives on a variety of grounds, saying they did not provide protection to workers, tenants, or marijuana users who drive. She said the initiatives "appeal to law enforcement" and criticized versions that included a 15% excise tax. She also complained that the initiatives had been filed without broader feedback.

"I'm not sure why they did this without telling anybody," said Kriho. "Even the legislature gave us more notice to comment on their proposed legislation than they did. It really shows their bad faith."

But both Tvert and Vicente said that Kriho had been sent a draft of the base initiative a week before they filed it. A copy of the draft is available on the CTI web site.

"This opposition from within the movement is certainly frustrating, and we don't want to see the movement fractured," said Tvert. "We hope that anyone who supports ending marijuana prohibition will be comfortable with this initiative and be part of this broad coalition moving forward. We've reached out extensively to various groups in the community, including marijuana business leaders and organizations, and including CTI."

It's difficult to tell how much support Kriho and her critique have in Colorado's marijuana community, but Vicente seemed more bemused than concerned about it.

"I think the Colorado marijuana community is generally quite united," he said. "Most people are very supportive of this effort. We made an incredible outreach to different communities and solicited comments from grassroots activists, lawyers, and elected officials, and did our best to incorporate their concerns in the draft language. We're still requesting suggestions and we could still change the language," he said.

In the meantime, organizers are preparing for a signature gathering drive to begin toward the end of June. They will have six months to gather 85,000 valid voter signatures, and they say their goal is to hand in 130,000 or more.

And they are beginning to look for money. "We're certainly hoping to raise money, but we haven't pursued significant funding until we have an initiative in place," said Tvert. "We haven't received any significant money, but we haven't been soliciting it yet, either."

Still, the SAFER/Sensible Colorado initiative effort appears to have enough support to make it onto the ballot in 2012. Other initiative efforts, such as CTI's, can also try to make the ballot. It looks like it's going to be an interesting next 18 months in Colorado pot politics.

Denver, CO
United States

Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in 2012

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Sensible Colorado - working for an effective drug policy


This alert sent from Sensible Colorado Action c(4)



2012:  An Update on Legalization

As you might have read or heard, a broad coalition of organizations that includes Sensible Colorado has submitted language for a 2012 statewide legalization initiative in Colorado. 


The yet to be finalized measure would remove penalties for private marijuana possession and limited home growing, and establish a legal and regulated marijuana market for adults 21 and older.


We went through an exceptionally exhaustive five-plus-month process to produce the filed initiative language, which we believe is incredibly strong and presents the best route to ending marijuana prohibition here in Colorado.  We coordinated with dozens of organizations, attorneys, activists, patients, marijuana business owners, and other stakeholders, both in Colorado and around the country.  We also solicited comments from the public via our organizations' lists of thousands of Colorado reform supporters, magazine ads, and events around the state. 


We are still engaged in the process of fine-tuning the initiative, so please do not hesitate to reply to this e-mail if you have any specific concerns or questions, which we will take into strong consideration and address as quickly as possible. 


As you can imagine, it is incredibly difficult if not impossible to produce initiative language on which everyone will agree entirely.  But it remains our sincere hope that supporters of reform across Colorado will feel comfortable with the final product, become part of this growing coalition, and work together toward our shared goal of ending marijuana prohibition.


Please reply to this e-mail or give us a call to participate in this process.  720 890 4247


Sensible Colorado | PO Box 18768 | Denver CO 80218

United States

Montana Referendum Taking on Medical Marijuana Law Filed

United States
The Montana Cannabis Industry Association filed legal papers with the secretary of state’s office Thursday to start a signature-gathering effort to let Montanans vote in 2012 on a soon-to-be medical marijuana law it opposes. The paperwork was delivered to Secretary of State Linda McCulloch’s office late Thursday. "We’re moving forward on all fronts," said Kate Cholewa, spokeswoman for the group. "The people want what they voted for and what the Legislature did is not it."
Independent Record (MT)

Ohio Billionaire Seeks Medical Marijuana Vote

Cleveland-based billionaire Peter Lewis, the chairman of Progressive Insurance, wants Ohioans to vote on becoming a medical marijuana state. Through his attorney, he has put out a request for proposals for an Ohio medical marijuana initiative that will "create a model for future campaigns in other states."

Could Ohio be next? Peter Lewis would like to make it happen. (Image via
Lewis has given millions of dollars to drug reform campaigns across the country, including $900,000 last year to the Marijuana Policy Project and another $200,000 for Proposition 19 in California. Now, his drug reform funding is channeled through his attorney, Graham Boyd of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project.

Ohio "stands out as having particularly high levels of voter support," the request said. It seeks proposals that include drafting ballot language, qualifying for the ballot, building a campaign organization, communicating with voters, and raising money -- although it is probably safe to assume Lewis would kick in a substantial sum himself.

But it's not a done deal yet. "You shouldn't take it as a given that there will be a ballot initiative this campaign," said Boyd told Forbes on Tuesday. "But we want to see proposals."

Lewis's interest in marijuana reform is personal. He was arrested for pot and hash possession in New Zealand in 2000, but got the charges dropped by making a generous donation to a local drug treatment center.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, but only one of them, Michigan, is in the Midwest. In Michigan, it won through a voter initiative; if someone is on the ball in the Buckeye State, Ohio could be next.

Cleveland, OH
United States

Progressive Chairman Peter B. Lewis Aims to Put Medical Marijuana on Ohio's 2012 Ballot

United States
Peter B. Lewis -- the billionaire chairman of Progressive Corp. and well-known medical marijuana advocate -- is seeking proposals to run a campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio. The issue would go on the ballot in 2012. While Democratic lawmakers have tried and failed in recent years to pass medical a marijuana law in Ohio, Lewis' latest inquiry represents a different tack. By going directly to voters through a ballot initiative, Lewis and his supporters could circumvent a GOP-controlled legislature and a Republican governor who likely would oppose such a law.
The Plain Dealer (OH)

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