Ballot Measures

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Initiative Watch

There's less than a month to go, but some initiatives are more active than others.

Arkansas

Both the Arkansas Issue 5 campaign and the opposition were very quiet this week.

California

Proposition 36, the three-strikes sentencing initiative is finally getting some attention. The stealthy campaign was the subject of at least eight news stories in the past few days, but remains mostly under the radar.

Colorado

Last week, the National Cannabis Coalition donated $3,000 to Amendment 64 and said it had another $3,000 in matching funds from a generous donor. The Coalition has also supported the marijuana decriminalization measure in Springfield, Missouri, and the successful campaigns of Ellen Rosenblum in Oregon and Beto O’Rourke in Texas.

On Tuesday, the Amendment 64 campaign announced it had the endorsements of more than 300 doctors. The move came after the Colorado branch of the American Academy of Pediatrics came out in opposition to the initiative. The announcement came at a news conference featuring Dr. Larry Bedard, a former president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Massachusetts

On Sunday, a Boston Globe poll had Question 3, the medical marijuana initiative, cruising toward victory. The poll had support at 69%, with opposition at only 22% and 9% undecided. Even Republicans favored the initiative.

Montana

The I-124 campaign continues to try to explain why voters should vote "no" on election day
. The initiative would repeal restrictions imposed on the state's voter-approved medical marijuana program and reinstate the original program. A "yes" vote upholds the restrictions; a "no" vote would undo them.

Oregon

See our feature article on Measure 80 here.

On Wednesday, GOP state Senate candidate Cliff Hutchinson endorsed Measure 80. He is the first Oregon Republican to do so. He is also head of the libertarian-leaning Republican Liberty Caucus. “From historical figures like William F. Buckley to current Republican national voices like Jeff Flake and Tom Tancredo, to up-and-coming conservatives like Meghan McCain, more and more conservatives are supporting sensible marijuana policy because it aligns with their core values and political platforms,” said Roy Kaufmann, spokesman for the Yes on 80 campaign. “We’re proud to have Cliff’s support and look forward to adding more conservative Oregonians to our movement.”

Next Monday,.a Measure 80 women's rally will take place at the state capitol. The Oregon Women for Measure 80 rally is being held in solidarity with the national Moms for Marijuana rally on the steps of our nation’s capitol that same day.

Washington

Last Wednesday, the I-502 campaign picked up a surprising endorsement: GOP US Senate hopeful Michael Baumgartner. The endorsement gives the campaign one of its highest-profile Republican supporters yet. Baumgartner, a state senator from Spokane who is running a long-shot bid to unseat Democratic US Sen. Maria Cantwell, said drug law reform isn't typically supported by his party, but he believes I-502 is a good step toward changing what he described as a wasteful policy of marijuana prohibition. According to electful.com, Cantwell supports "modernized" drug laws and drug courts, but not legalization.

On Wednesday, New Approach Washington announced its final push media campaign. The campaign will feature two thirty-second ads that will air on broadcast and cable television throughout western Washington and Spokane. The ads will feature two former US Attorneys and a former FBI agent and will run during early morning news shows in Seattle and Spokane and on MSNBC and CNN early morning news programs in Vancouver and Longview.

Oregon's Measure 80 Faces an Uphill Battle [FEATURE]

Of the three marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot this year, Oregon's Measure 80, also known as the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, is the most radical. For a variety of reasons it also looks to be the least likely to win. In the only recent poll, done last month by SurveyUSA, Measure 80 was trailing by a margin of 37% to 41%, with a large undecided vote of 22%. While pollsters said the results meant the race was "could go either way" and campaign proponents pointed to the high number of undecideds, any initiative polling less than 50% this close to election day is in trouble.

Measure 80 aims to reassure parents. (vote80.org)
That's too bad, because Measure 80 would repeal marijuana prohibition in Oregon outright; allow personal possession and cultivation by adults 21 and over; create an Oregon Cannabis Commission to tax, regulate, and license commercial marijuana cultivation, processing, and sales; and explicitly allow for industrial hemp production.

Unlike Washington's I-502, Measure 80 does not establish a per se drugged driving standard for marijuana; instead, it relies on the state's existing drugged driving laws. It does create criminal penalties for commercial cultivation without a license, selling Oregon marijuana outside the state, and providing it to minors.

Medical marijuana entrepreneur and long-time hemp and legalization activist Paul Stanford relied primarily on his personal wealth to finance the signature gathering campaign for the initiative, but appears to have largely emptied his pockets doing so, and the Yes on 80 campaign has virtually no money in the bank. A political action committee formed to help Measure 80 pass, Oregonians for Law Reform, has also done some fundraising, but so far has raised only a few thousand dollars.

"We think we can squeak by and make some history," said Vote 80 campaign manager Roy Kaufmann. "We've done this before -- we repealed alcohol Prohibition in 1932, and when we talk about the damage Prohibition did to our country, that becomes a very useful argument. We only qualified for the ballot in July, and the electorate is pretty evenly split right now, with a lot of undecideds. We think we can reach the undecided voters."

"It's a toss-up according to the latest poll," said Stanford. "That's not a good place to be at this point in the campaign," he conceded, "but we still have a large number of undecideds, and we just need to get the word out about how our initiative will enhance public safety, provide funding for new technologies and impairment studies, and set up a series of controls to keep it from going to kids and going out of state."

Stanford said the campaign would have to rely on "earned media," or, in other words, depend on generating news stories in the state's mass media, because it doesn't have the money for expensive paid media campaigns. As of about a week ago, the campaign reported having only $1,800 in the bank.

Oregonians for Law Reform has raised about $4,000 for the campaign so far, said spokesman Sam Chapman.

"We're going to be using the money for advertising, phone banking, and things like stickers, and we're also mobilizing students to reach out to their communities," said the former University of Oregon Students for Sensible Policy chapter president. "The majority of voters in Oregon just aren't aware this is even on the ballot -- if we can get to them before they get all the negative slant from the media, we have a good chance to turn out a lot of votes, especially students, since they don't need much persuading."

While Oregonians for Law Reform could undertake broader criminal justice work in the future, it was created primarily as a vehicle for passing Measure 80, Chapman said.

"We started the PAC on September 15 with a two-fold purpose: to raise money for Measure 80 and to act as an independent complementary group to the measure and the campaign," he said. "When we started, we hoped we could open the door back up for large outside donors, but it looks like they've settled on Washington and Colorado. We recognize that, and are trying to do a grassroots campaign."

Anti-Measure 80 billboard paid for by the Drug Free America Foundation (Paul Stanford)
Unlike the Colorado and Washington initiatives, Measure 80 has not managed to attract the big money funders, such as Peter Lewis of Progressive Insurance, the Drug Policy Alliance lobbying and campaign arm, Drug Policy Action Network, or the Marijuana Policy Project. Those groups have poured millions of dollars into the other initiatives, but not Oregon. 

MPP communications director Morgan Fox wouldn't directly address Oregon, but did explain what made the group comfortable putting money into the Colorado effort.

"Several things made the state an attractive one in which to attempt a ballot initiative," Fox said. "First, the polling looked good for the past couple of years and didn't show any signs of fluctuating by large degrees. Second, there is already a thriving medical marijuana industry and regulatory structure in place that provide an example similar to how the state will look after the passage of Amendment 64, making it much easier to convince unsure voters and make the arguments in favor more concrete. Third, there was a well-established activist community in the state that was effective, organized, and eager to move forward. This last part is very important, since most ballot initiatives are truly the product of grassroots local activists within a state who put together a plan that gets the attention of national organizations that are trying to determine how to best spend their all-too-limited resources."

"Both of the other initiatives were conceived, drafted, polled, and then put on the ballot by organizations that already had the money," said Stanford.

"The big funders saw Colorado and Washington pop up real fast," said Chapman, "and organizers made a lot of compromises in Colorado and Washington in order to poll higher and reach out to certain demographics, like the drugged driving provision in Washington -- that was tossing a bone to law enforcement and the scared mom demographic. Measure 80 is arguably for more progressive personal freedoms than either Colorado or Washington."

If Measure 80 isn't garnering much financial support, at least it isn't seeing a whole lot of organized opposition, either. While local law enforcement and conservative newspaper editorial boards have come out against it, the most significant opposition presence has been the appearance of some much-derided billboards paid for by the Florida-based Drug Free America Foundation.

 As the clock ticks down, Stanford is putting a brave face on things. "We have a shot; there's still a chance we can win," he said. "I'm still optimistic that all three states can pass marijuana reform initiatives and basically legalize personal sale and possession. That would be for the drug war what the falling of the Berlin Wall was for the Cold War."

Even if Measure 80 doesn't win, it at least has to not be a wipe-out, Chapman said.

"If we get under 40%, there will be blowback," he predicted. "The big funders won't come back to Oregon for a long time, and we're likely to be playing damage control in the legislature for the next four years. This could also hurt our medical system. There are raids going on, and we could see legislators backed by law enforcement saying we couldn't get our act together and now let's repeal some stuff."

Oregon votes entirely by mail. Voters will receive their ballot beginning next week. If Measure 80 is going to win over those undecideds and eke out a victory, it has to be getting to them right now.

OR
United States

At NORML, A Sharp Focus on the Marijuana Initiatives [FEATURE]

The 41st National NORML conference took place at a downtown Los Angeles hotel over the weekend under the theme of "The Final Days of Prohibition." With marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot in three states and medical marijuana on the ballot in two others, the several hundred attendees could almost smell the scent of victory come election day -- or at least a historic first win for legalization.

Rick Steves, Keith Stroup, Ethan Nadelmann, Brian Vicente for OR Amendment 64, Roy Kaufman for OR Measure 80 (radicalruss.com)
"This is a great movement, not because it's about marijuana, but because it's a movement about truth and freedom, the freedom to live our private lives as we wish," NORML board chairman Paul Kuhn told the crowd in his conference-opening remarks. "A White House that serves liquor, a president who smoked a lot of marijuana, and a speaker of the house who is addicted to nicotine -- they have no business demonizing us because we prefer a substance less dangerous than liquor or alcohol."

For Kuhn, as for many others at the conference, supporting the legalization initiatives was front and center. (While grumbling and gnashing of teeth was heard among some attendees, particularly over the Washington initiative's drugged driving provision, no initiative opponents were seen on any of the panels or presentations.)

"We're beyond the concept of legalization. Now, we're supporting real laws, and no law will satisfy everybody in this movement," Kuhn continued, implicitly acknowledging the dissension around the Washington initiative. "We have our differences, sometimes heated, and this is healthy and necessary if we are to evolve and craft the best laws and regulations, the best form of legalization. All of us in this movement are allies, we're friends, we share the same goals of truth and freedom and legal marijuana. We have worked too hard for too many years to let our opponents divide us, or worse, divide ourselves."

"These are the final days of prohibition. The data is clear," said NORML executive director Allen St. Pierre, pointing not only to public opinion polls but also to the political reality of the initiatives and the progress the movement has made in Congress and the states. "We have a cannabis caucus in our Congress and in the state houses, and we helped get them elected. There are 15 or 20 members of Congress who are genuine supporters of ending prohibition, most of them are Democrats. In the states, we now have sitting governors and representatives calling us and saying 'we want your support, your endorsement, your money.'"

 With the initiatives looming, much of the conference was devoted to the minutiae and arcana of legalization, regulation, and taxation models. Thursday afternoon saw extended discussions in panels on "Cannabis Legalization and Regulation: What it Might Look Like" and "Cannabis and the 'Demo' Gap: Who Doesn't Support Legalization and What We Can Do about It."

"How do we win the hearts and minds of non-smokers?" asked Patrick Oglesby of the Center for New Revenue. "The revenue card is one we can play. That gives people something to vote for. Every state in the union legalizes and taxes alcohol and tobacco. Revenue from marijuana isn't going to fix our economic problems, but let's start with the easy stuff, let's fix this and get some revenues."

"At least one state will tip in November, and others will follow," predicted Pepperdine University researcher and Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know coauthor Angela Hawken. "Parents will wake up and realize their children didn't turn into zombies."

Parents -- and mothers in particular -- are a key demographic that must be won over if marijuana legalization is to advance, and the way to win them over is to address their fears, panelists said.

"Women are more safety conscious and they tend to believe authority," noted NORML Women's Alliance coordinator Sabrina Fendrick. "They just need to be educated. Proposition 19 failed in large part because of women and seniors. Many were concerned over the driving issue and children being on the road with stoned drivers. The way to bring support up is to educate them about the difference between use and abuse, and to make women who support legalization feel safe about coming out."

The NORML Women's Alliance is working on that, and on increasing the number of female activists in a movement that has been male-dominated from the outset.

Law enforcement is another key bastion of opposition to legalization, and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) representative Steven Downing told the audience the key to swaying law enforcement was not in the rank and file, but at the pinnacle of the command structure.

"We have to influence change at the top," he said. "When that comes, the young officers on the street will do as they're told. Many of them already agree with legalizing marijuana. Don't treat the police as the enemy, but as people who can benefit from the education you can give them. Do it in a way that they're not defensive, then refer them to LEAP," the former LAPD officer suggested. "Tell them that if they support the war on drugs, they're not supporting public safety."

On Friday, longtime Seattle marijuana activist-turned-journalist Dominic Holden gave a spirited defense of Washington's I-502 initiative and ripped into its movement critics, including calling out NORML board member and Seattle defense attorney Jeff Steinborn, who has been a vocal foe of the initiative despite a unanimous board vote to support it.

"Who is opposing 502?" Holden asked. "The law enforcement opposition has been quiet and halfhearted. It's Steve Sarich, who runs CannaCare, it's cannabis doc Gil Mobley, and a whole passel of pot activists along with them. The ones opposing pot legalization right now are the ones making money hand over fist with prohibition. If they're profiting off it, I don't give a rat's ass what they think," he said.

"They don't like the DUID provision and its per se standard. They say that someone who uses marijuana regularly will test positive, but there is not a single scientific study to back them up. Their argument is fundamentally flawed because it is a lie," Holden countered, mincing no words.

"There is also concern that if we pass it, the federal government will challenge us on legalizing pot. That's the damned point!" he thundered.

"But marijuana is going to be taxed, they complain. Shut up, Teabaggers!" Holden jeered. "What planet do you live on where they're not going to tax a huge agricultural commodity?"

He pointed out that Steinborn and Sensible Washington, who are opposing I-502, had tried unsuccessfully to mount an initiative of their own.

"If you want to run a winning campaign, you need a bunch of money, credible spokespeople, campaign professionals, and the polling on your side," he said. "Part of that is compromise. You don't always get what you want, you don't always get the initiative of your dreams. What you want is a bill that can win."

"This is poll driven," said travel writer, TV host, and I-502 proponent Rick Steves. "It isn't a utopian fix. We need to win this. This doesn't feel pro-pot, but anti-prohibition."

"Regulate marijuana like alcohol is our message," said Sensible Colorado head and Amendment 80 proponent Brian Vicente. "We don't talk about legalization, but regulation. We've built support for this through two avenues, medical marijuana, where we've worked hard to make our state a model for how it can be taxed and regulated, but also through consistent earned media pushes and ballot initiatives to introduce the public to the idea that this isn’t the demon weed. We're consistently ahead five to ten points in the polls. We think this will be a damned close election."

When Vicente noted that the Colorado initiative had no drugged driving provision, he was met with loud applause. 

Drug Policy Alliance
head Ethan Nadelmann provided a primer on what major donors look for when it comes to supporting initiatives.

"We don't pick out a state in advance," he explained. "We want to know at the get-go if there is already a serious majority in favor of legalization. To think you can use a campaign to move the public is not true; the role of the ballot process is to transform majoritarian public opinion into law when the state legislature is unable or unwilling to do so. You want to go in with 57% or 58% on your side. Anything short of that, you're going to lose."

And watch out for October, he warned.

"In the final weeks, the opposition mobilizes," Nadelmann said. "You get the cops, the politicians, the feds speaking out and scaring people -- that's why these are hard to win, and that's why I'm still really nervous."

Still, the Drug Policy Alliance is deeply involved in Colorado and has put a lot of money into Washington, Nadelmann said, while noting that the Marijuana Policy Project had also put big bucks into Colorado.

"We have to win this year so we can figure out how to win a bunch more in 2016," Nadelmann said, adding that he was looking toward California. "We're going to try to put together the best and most winnable legalization initiative in California in 2016.

NORML 2012 wasn't all about the initiatives -- there were also panels on advances in medical marijuana, advances in the Northeast, and the role of women in the movement, among others, and a rousing speech from long-time anti-war activist Tom Hayden and a new-born movement star in Ann Lee, the mother of Richard Lee -- but with the marijuana legalization movement looking like it's about to step foot in the Promised Land after decades in the political wilderness, next month's elections dominated. The prospect of imminent victory really focuses the mind.

Los Angeles, CA
United States

Richard Lee's Mom Wows 'Em at NORML [FEATURE]

With a few more appearances like the one she put in at the 41st National NORML Conference this past weekend in Los Angeles, silver-haired Texas Republican Ann Lee won't be introduced as "Richard Lee's Mom" for much longer. The 84-year-old Lee wowed the crowd with her feisty appearances and her call for a Republican revolution against marijuana prohibition, threatening to become a movement star in her own right, and not merely as the mother of the man who founded Oaksterdam University and put 2010's California Proposition 19 on the ballot.

Ann Lee, 2012 NORML conference (radicalruss.com)
"Republicans believe in three things: limited government, fiscal responsibility, and less intrusion in your private life," Lee said in remarks last Thursday. "The drug war is against all the principles of the Republican Party. How about RAMP (Republicans against Marijuana Prohibition)?" she demanded to cheers of approval.

Lee explained how, like most people, she had believed her government when it told her marijuana was bad and dangerous, but that her son's advocacy for the herb after he began using it medicinally in the wake of a spinal injury helped her change her mind. And her role as an advocate for Prop 19 helped her sharpen her arguments.

"I fell hook, line, and sinker for the propaganda my government put out," she said. "I've come to question the government more than I ever did."

It isn't just pot, it's prohibition, Lee told the crowd, adding that she had read Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow and considered it a masterful explanation of the racial politics hiding behind prohibition.

"We've taken freedom away from way too many young blacks and Latinos."

The down home octogenarian also drew a long round of applause when she addressed the NORML Women's Alliance panel at the end of its Saturday session, reiterating her remarks about creating RAMP and urging the panel and the crowd not to forego opportunities for creating new allies.

Lee's first appearance was on a panel about demographic groups that have not been friendly to marijuana law reform. But if the white-haired Texas Republican woman demographic is slipping away from the prohibitionists, the end may indeed be nigh.

Los Angeles, CA
United States

Initiative Watch

Just over a month out, medical marijuana and marijuana legalization initiative campaigns are heating up.

Arkansas

See our feature article this week on the Arkansas initiative and its prospects here.

California

All was quiet on the Proposition 36 three-strikes initiative front.

Colorado

Last Thursday, a group of armed forces veterans came out for Amendment 64. The group, Veterans for 64, was formed after the state denied a plea to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to its list of ailments for which medical marijuana can be used. "The state's failure to act is an effective denial of this compassionate petition," said Vietnam veteran Bob Wiley. "Our only option is to support Amendment 64, which will ensure that Coloradans 21 and older who suffer from PTSD will no longer be subject to arrest and prosecution for using marijuana."

Also last Thursday, a study found that one in 20 Colorado arrests are marijuana-related. The study, conducted by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy for the Drug Policy Alliance found that police forces in the state spend about 4.7% of their budgets enforcing marijuana prohibition, the courts spend 7%, and the corrections system spends 2%. All told, the study concludes that legalizing small amounts of marijuana will save Colorado taxpayers $12 million a year in the beginning and up to $40 million a year in later years.

On Tuesday, Republican state Sen. Shawn Mitchell endorsed Amendment 64. "It's clear the war on drugs isn't working, and we need to try different approaches to this in society," said Mitchell, who has long had a libertarian-style view of drug use, based in part on his own family's experience. "Watching a brother battle addiction has made me question the worth of legal penalties," he said. He joined former US Rep. Tom Tancredo and a handful of other Republican supporters organized by the Republican Liberty Caucus at a rally at the capitol that day.

On Wednesday, the Amendment 64 campaign released a new TV ad arguing that money from marijuana sales should go to Colorado schools, not Mexican drug cartels. "We all know where the money from non-medical marijuana sales is currently going," the narrator says as dollar signs cascade down from Colorado and into Mexico. "It doesn't need to be that way. If we pass Amendment 64, Colorado businesses would profit and tax revenues would pay for public services and the reconstruction of our schools. Let's vote for the good guys and against the bad guys -- let's have marijuana tax money go to our schools rather than criminals in Mexico."

Massachusetts

On Wednesday, opponents of Question 3 gathered in Somerville to discuss the measure. Some 20 people, including Somerville Police Chief Thomas Pasquarello, gathered for a talk by Cory Mashburn, Director of the Somerville Office of Prevention, part of the Somerville Health Department. Dispensaries will resemble "candy stores or a 7-11," he told the small crowd.

Montana

All was quiet on the I-124 front.

Oregon

Last Thursday, the Yes on 80 campaign criticized a raid on a major medical marijuana provider. The campaign addressed that day's raid on the Human Collective in Tigard, saying "prohibition is the problem, regulation is the solution."

On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported on money problems for Measure 80. The campaign had only $1,800 in the bank, the AP reported, citing potential large donors' doubts about the measure's ability to win and skepticism about the measure's main backer, Paul Stanford. The measure is trailing in the polls.

Washington

On Sunday, the Columbian (Vancouver, WA) endorsed I-502.

As of Monday, the I-502 campaign had raised $4 million, including $670,000 donated last week by Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis, who has now thrown in a total of $1.55 million. The campaign used some of that money for a $700,000 TV ad buy for use in the final week before the election.

Also on Monday, the campaign won the endorsement of King County Sheriff Steve Strachan, who is running for re-election. "I think the current situation is bad for the rule of law, bad for the criminal justice system and and it sends a bad message to our kids," he said. Strachan's opponent, longtime Sheriff's spokesman John Urquhart, previously endorsed I-502.

On Tuesday, the Spokane Spokesman-Review endorsed I-502.

On Wednesday, Republican US Senate hopeful Michael Baumgartner endorsed I-502, giving the campaign one of its highest-profile Republican supporters yet. He is running a long-shot bid to defeat Democratic US Sen. Maria Cantwell. I-502 is "taking a different approach to a very expensive drug war, and potentially a better approach," Baumgartner said. "They've checked all the boxes as far as what you would want to see happen in terms of provisions to keep it away from children and limiting access in the public space. I've just been impressed with the initiative and the people running it."

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Initiative Heads for Finish Line [FEATURE]

Medical marijuana has made great inroads in parts of the United States. With the exceptions of Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming, the West is medical marijuana country. The Northeast is also trending that way, with Massachusetts looking likely to join the ranks come election day, while Michigan represents medical marijuana's first acceptance in the Midwest.

The South remains the last region of the country without a medical marijuana state, but that could well change on November 6, when voters in Arkansas will have the chance to approve a medical marijuana initiative there.

Sponsored by Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act (Issue 5 on the ballot) would allow patients suffering from a specified list of diseases and conditions to use and possess marijuana on a doctor's recommendation after registering with the state Health Department. Patients would obtain marijuana from state-regulated non-profit dispensaries. Only those patients living more than five miles from a dispensary could grow their own or have a caregiver grow it for them, and they would be limited to six plants per patient.

The campaign is counting on the compassion of Arkansans to bring it to victory in November and is highlighting the plight of patients like Emily Williams, a Fayetteville wife and mother diagnosed with lymphoma in 2010. Williams underwent extensive chemotherapy, resulting in extreme nausea, headaches, and general lethargy. She was unable to eat, drink, or take any medications because of the side effects, and anti-nausea agents her doctors prescribed didn't help.

"I had an intravenous medication, a pill, a patch, and a tablet which dissolved under my tongue, but none of them changed any of my symptoms," she said, explaining how she reluctantly turned to medical marijuana. "I knew I was putting my family at risk. We could have been arrested or lost our property, but I was dying and nothing else was working."

Medical marijuana worked. "Within 10 minutes, my headache was gone, my nerves were relaxed, the pain in my body was gone, and the nausea was totally gone, it totally disappeared," she said. "It allowed me to live a normal life. I was able to eat dinner with my family, and to be more active."

But the risk from marijuana's illegality was too much for Williams. She refused to use it during her last round of chemotherapy because of fears for her family, and paid a price. The anti-nausea drugs still didn't work, she lost ten pounds in a week, and her recovery was unnecessarily prolonged.

"Marijuana helped me live a normal life during my battle with cancer, but it was too risky," she explained. "I was offered marijuana during my last treatment, but I couldn't bring myself to put my family in jeopardy. I would have recovered much more quickly. I would have been able to eat, sleep, and continue through my treatment without struggling as much. Patients shouldn't suffer because of the law. Why can't there be some other possibility?"

cancer patient Emily Williams (arcompassion.org)
The campaign is counting on stories like Williams' to turn a neck-and-neck race into a victory on November 6. The only recent poll on the initiative, a Talk Business-Hendrix College poll in July, had it eking out a one-point lead at 47% to 46%, with 7% undecided, but the campaign said it thought support had only increased since then.

"I suspect that number has changed quite a bit," said campaign strategist Chris Kell. "Once we got the signatures, we also got a phenomenal amount of attention, and it's hard to say no to the stories of these patients. Now, people are hearing about the initiative, they're visiting the web site, and we're going to be tugging pretty heavy at their heartstrings."

It's all out for the final push to victory now, he said.

"We've overcome so many hurdles, we're really excited, and we're ready to take this campaign to the ground," Kell exclaimed. "The response so far has been very favorable, and I'm confident we can get this thing passed in November. We hope to be a model for all the other Southern states."

The final hurdle overcome was a lawsuit filed by the social conservative Arkansas Family Council Action Committee that sought to keep the measure off the ballot by challenging the ballot language. The state Supreme Court rejected that effort last week.

"This is about legalizing marijuana," Family Council Action Committee head Jerry Cox told the Ozarks Times in August when the challenge was filed. "It's just a matter of legalizing it in degrees. I think you'd find, if you asked around, that a lot of the same folks who support this support total legalization of marijuana for any purpose. I believe their real agenda is to have marijuana be as legally available as tobacco."

The Marijuana Policy Project contributed money to help gather the signatures to get the measure on the ballot and helped with the court challenge, but the campaign is now looking for more money to get some advertising on the airwaves before the election.

"All the money we were expecting from various folks got tied up with that lawsuit," Kell explained. "Nobody wanted to give money until they were sure it was actually on the ballot. Now that it is, we will have an effort to raise enough money so that we can hopefully have a paid media campaign in the last week."

If they do manage a paid media campaign, it looks like it will be the only one. Aside from the Family Council, organized opposition is scarce.

"We haven't seen any real law enforcement opposition yet, and some on the ground will tell us quietly they are for it, that they don't want to have to arrest people who have small amounts for medicinal purposes," said Kell. "The only organized opposition even on a minor level is coming from people who benefit from keeping this illegal, treatment centers and that kind of thing."

Kell wasn't too worried about the family values crowd and its use of the bully pulpit to encourage "no" votes.

"We're not really all that concerned with them," he said. "When you go into that voting booth, that's a private deal. You can have a faith leader tell you one thing, but you can still vote your conscience. Plus, we have our own clergy getting the word out, and if you have any compassion at all, it's hard to say no."

Arkansas is generally considered a conservative state, but that's not completely true, Kell said, noting that it had elected and reelected liberal Bill Clinton governor, then followed that up by electing social conservative Mike Huckabee as his replacement.

"Arkansas is a strange state politically," he said. "We've been getting as much help from the conservative side as from the liberals. People could cross party lines to vote for this in large numbers. The voters here are pretty pragmatic and well-informed when they vote. I think they will vote for compassion."

In little more than a month, we will see if Arkansas will lead the South toward the medical marijuana promised land.

AR
United States

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Initiative Fends Off Ballot Challenge

The Arkansas Supreme Court Thursday rejected a bid to keep the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act off the November ballot. That means voters there will have the chance to make it the first state in the South to embrace medical marijuana.

Although the act, to be known as Issue 5 on the ballot, was qualified for the ballot after Arkansans for Compassionate Care met all state requirements, the conservative Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values had sought to block it on the grounds that its ballot statement does not adequately explain that patients could still face federal prosecution.

But the state high court wasn't buying.

"We hold that it is an adequate and fair representation without misleading tendencies or partisan coloring," the court wrote in its opinion. "Therefore, the act is proper for inclusion on the ballot at the general election on November 6, 2012, and the petition is therefore denied."

The coalition also argued that the ballot question doesn't adequately describe other aspects of the proposed law, including a provision allowing minors to use medical marijuana without seeking parental consent, but the high court wasn't buying that, either.

"Here, after reviewing the ballot title of 384 words, we conclude that the title informs the voters in an intelligible, honest and impartial manner of the substantive matter of the act," the court said.

The court decision was met with relief and elation by Arkansans for Compassionate Care and the Marijuana Policy Project, which had funded the effort to the tune of $251,000.

"We at the Marijuana Policy Project are very proud to support Issue 5 and Arkansans for Compassionate Care and are glad that the state Supreme Court saw fit to dismiss this baseless challenge," said MPP communications director Morgan Fox. "The people of Arkansas deserve a chance to have their voices heard, just as seriously ill Arkansans deserve a chance to live normal lives without being treated like criminals."

"The tightly regulated system that would be implemented by the passage of this initiative would provide relief to numerous patients suffering from severely debilitating conditions while taking resources out of the hands of criminals and increasing public safety. This is not a partisan issue," continued Fox. "It is a matter of compassion. Hopefully other states in the region will take their cue from Arkansas and begin to explore similar policy alternatives to putting sick people in jail."

Under the proposal, qualifying health conditions would include cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS and Alzheimer's disease. The proposal also would allow qualifying patients or a designated caregiver to grow marijuana if the patient lives more than five miles from a dispensary.

Medical marijuana is also on the ballot this year in Massachusetts, while in Montana, an initiative that would undo the gutting of that state's program by the legislature is also on the ballot.

Little Rock, AR
United States

TONIGHT: StoptheDrugWar.org Marijuana Legalization Initiatives Teleconference

[Please join us tonight! Updated agenda below]

StoptheDrugWar.org is pleased to announce our first teleconference, featuring the initiative campaigns in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington State to enact regulatory (legalization) systems for marijuana. Please join us by phone or Skype on Thursday, September 27, 6:00pm PST / 9:00pm EST -- call (805) 399-1200 and enter access code 135516. We will discuss what the initiatives do, what their prospects are for passage and for fueling further reform, and what people can do to get involved.

The following exciting speakers have agreed to join us:

  • Oscar Eason, Jr., NAACP Alaska/Oregon/Washington State Area Conference
  • Alison Holcomb, New Approach Washington
  • Paul Stanford, Oregon Cannabis Tax Act
  • Steve Fox, Marijuana Policy Project (coordinating Colorado efforts)
  • Tony Ryan, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Moderated by David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org, and joined by Drug War Chronicle writer/editor Phillip S. Smith.

Please RVSP here on our Facebook event page or our evite, and please spread the word! We will accept questions by email, now and during the teleconference -- send them to borden@drcnet.org.

Please stay tuned also for announcements of additional teleconferences to discuss the upcoming state medical marijuana initiatives, prospects for reform in Congress next year, and other topics. If you are not already subscribed to the Drug War Chronicle newsletter, you can subscribe here -- follow us on Facebook and Twitter too.

Washington Marijuana Legalization Measure In Strong Position [FEATURE]

 

A little more than a month out from Election Day, Washington state's I-502 marijuana legalization, regulation, and taxation initiative looks to be well-positioned yet to actually win at the ballot box, with powerful supporters, lots of money, and a healthy lead in the polls. But it's not a done deal yet.

Sponsored by New Approach Washington, I-502 would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and over, but not allow them to grow their own. Instead, it would create a scheme of licensed, taxed, and regulated commercial marijuana cultivation, processing, and retail sales under the eye of the state liquor control board. Medical marijuana patients are exempted from its provisions.

I-502 polled at 57% support two weeks ago, up three points from a June poll. Meanwhile, opposition to the initiative is declining in those polls, from 37% in June to 34% this month.

The good numbers are due at least in part to the powerful list of endorsements, which include not only the usual drug reform suspects, but also labor, civil rights, and children's and retiree's groups, the state Democratic and Green parties, an increasing list of the state's most-read newspapers, including the Seattle Times and the Olympian, both of which endorsed the initiative within the last week. Also on board are figures are mainstream criminal justice figures like Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and former US Attorney for the Western District of Washington John McKay, the man who prosecuted Canadian "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery (who also endorses the initiative).

Money helps, too, and I-502 has it. The campaign has raised over $3 million so far, including $715,000 from the Drug Policy Action Network, the lobbying and campaign arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, $821,000 from Progressive Insurance founder and drug reform Daddy Warbucks Peter Lewis, and $450,000 from Seattle-based travel writer Rick Steves. That means that although it has already spent $1 million on early ad buys, it still has $2 million in the bank, and it's still fundraising.

The initiative has drawn some criticism internally within the drug reform movement, including some outright opposition, mainly for a drugged driving provision. Under I-502's language, drivers caught driving with more than 5 nanograms of the longer-acting THC metabolites in their blood can be convicted, per se, of Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID). Supporters point out that the initiative excludes the long-acting THC-COOH metabolite from the reach of the DUID provision, and that police are prohibited from ordering blood tests unless there is probable cause to suspect that a driver is impaired. They also argue that language addressing driving is necessary to make the initiative palatable to those voters in the state whose summers don't revolve around Hempfest.

New Approach Washington is being cautious.

"You know it's going to be close, very close, everything seems to be going well, but we're still six weeks out," said campaign director Allison Holcomb, counseling against complacency.

"We definitely will have money to do some paid media advertising, but fundraising will go on until the last moment," said Holcomb. "We've raised $2 million from big donors, but also lots with local support. People with no connection to drug policy or marijuana policy are stepping forward. They get that we're not promoting marijuana use, but better marijuana laws. It's all starting to click."

Aside from the intramural criticisms, Holcomb said there is little organized opposition.

"There are about a half dozen law enforcement and treatment and prevention folks who make the rounds and debate with us, but in terms of organizations launching a campaign against the initiative, we're really not seeing that," she said. "We view that as a testament to the drafting and endorsements we're picking up."

And while the intra-movement opposition is loud and boisterous, there may be less to it than meets the eye, said Holcomb.

"It doesn't seem to be that much of a problem," she said, although she acknowledged it had been "upsetting" on a personal level. "When we are at events like Hempfest or the High Times Cannabis Cup and have our table, people come up and express their concerns and ask questions. There is a lot of confusion within the grassroots, but we can clear up that confusion. A lot of the concern is built around fear of the unknown, too, but if you can get off the Internet and off Facebook, you can talk to people and address their concerns."

Two of the most prominent movement opponents of the initiative told the Chronicle it was hopelessly flawed, but the campaign and a raft of national drug reform groups begged to differ.

"This isn't legalization -- in order to legalize you have to remove all the criminal penalties, but this actually adds them in the form of DUIDs," said Steve Sarich, a medical marijuana businessman and advocate who spokesman for Vote No on I-502, a movement group opposing the initiative.

One of the loudest opponents of the initiative, Seattle defense attorney and Sensible Washington co-founder Douglass Hiatt. Sensible Washington twice tried to get a more sweeping legalization initiative on the ballot, but came up short. It is already planning another try for next year. "It doesn't legalize hemp or marijuana, but instead creates a narrow exception for possession of up to an ounce by adults over 21," Hiatt claimed.

Sarich's and others' fears notwithstanding, the experience of other states that have adopted per se DUID laws does not suggest a massive wave of arrests as a result. A chart compiled by NORML looks at what has happened in 14 states that have adopted such laws, some of them "zero tolerance," some of them with specified per se levels. No data was available for four states, DUIDs declined in five of them and increased in five others. In most cases, the percentage increase was under 10%. The number of marijuana DUIDs is smaller than the actual DUID numbers by some unknown percentage because the states do not differentiate between marijuana and other drug DUIDs.

National groups such as NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project, and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition told the Chronicle the initiative represents the best chance of winning a legalization vote and they are standing strong behind it despite concerns about some of the provisions. The Drug Policy Alliance, for its part, has put its political action committee's money where its mouth is.

"We support I-502 and hope it passes," said MPP spokesman Morgan Fox. "MPP generally will stand behind any initiative that results in fewer arrests, and I-502 will mean roughly 13,000 fewer arrests for adult possession. Passage of this initiative will also be a tremendous step forward in marijuana policy reform nationally and will help to show the federal government that prohibition is no longer what the public wants."

MPP is not putting money into the campaign, but is supporting it logistically and through getting the word out to its members, Fox said. Like many other supporters, it is endorsing I-502 despite reservations about the DUID limits.

"While per se DUID limits are not supported by our current scientific knowledge and MPP would prefer not to see them included in I-502, it is necessary to include some sort of provision to address impaired driving," Fox said. "It is more than likely that the negative effects of this particularly law will be far less severe than some may fear."

"We prefer proposals that include the right to grow your own and we certainly oppose per se DUID standards, but if you're asking whether we would support an initiative that has made the ballot, those flaws become insignificant compared to the benefits for all of us should this pass," echoed NORML founder Keith Stroup. "The NORML board of directors unanimously supported this."

"We can't win just with the support of the stoners," Stroup continued. "If you had listened to the Hempfest debates, you would have been convinced the community was divided, but to win, we have to have a majority of voters, not a majority of Hempfest attendees. The campaign did extensive polling and found that if they included personal cultivation and no DUID, they couldn't win," the silver-haired reform veteran argued.

"All the surveys show you aren't likely to win the non-pot smokers unless you can satisfy them that we are not unleashing a significant number of impaired drivers on them," Stroup noted. "That may not be a rational fear, but as we saw in the Proposition 19 exit polling, one of the main reasons people opposed was the concern about impaired drivers. Of course, that presumes stoners wouldn't drive if this didn't pass, but millions are driving every day and most have no problems."

"Look," said Stroup, "I admire this campaign. They have succeeded in getting the most establishment support for any legalization proposal ever. You have the individual who was responsible for prosecuting marijuana cases in Seattle sponsoring this initiative. The reason they are able to get establishment support is that they took establishment positions. Despite the provisions we don't really like, we totally support I-502, just like we support the initiatives in Colorado and Oregon."

The issue of impaired driving is going to continue to plague legalization efforts, Stroup said, and the movement has to figure out a response.

"One way or another, we'll be dealing with DUID provisions in any legalization proposal coming down the road," he said. "We're going to have to accept some DUID provisions, but hopefully we convince people that per se is not necessary."

"Flawed as it is, I-502 represents that best chance we've seen in this country to legalize, tax, and control marijuana," said former Seattle police chief and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition member Norm Stamper. "That per se DUID provision is causing a whole lot of us some heartburn, but on the other hand, this initiative gives us the best chance to really test the federal government's clout. If it passes, it's on a collision course with the feds, and we need to pass this in a very strategic and powerful way to make them blink.

"There is no such thing as a perfect initiative," Stamper continued, but this one has a whole lot going for it. I'm campaigning for it, I'm voting for it, and I encourage everyone to do the same." Stamper also predicts "an early test case" on the DUID provision. "[U]nlike the 0.008% blood alcohol content level, the per se DUID is not established science," he said.

Stamper and other LEAP members have been hitting the hustings in support of I-502, bringing the powerful message of law enforcement support for reform to audiences across the state. "People are very impressed with LEAP," said Stamper. "There probably isn't a LEAP speaker who hasn't heard 'coming from you guys, we have to listen.' That's not so much a function of our elegance as speakers, but of the fact that we were on the front lines of the drug war for so many years, and some of us still are."

In Washington state, this movement argument over per se DUID may cost some purist pot votes on election day, but having that language in the initiative could also be the key to bringing enough worried soccer moms over to make it a winning issue. As Stroup noted, this is an issue that the movement will have to continue to confront, but it may be better to confront it from a position where the voters have already said "legalize it."

WA
United States

Initiative Watch

We're a little more than a month from election day. Here's what's going on with the state-level initiatives.

California

Last Thursday, LA County DA candidates gave differing views on Proposition 36 during what is likely the final debate of their campaigns. Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson opposes the measure, which would modify the state's draconian three-strikes law, while Chief Deputy District Attorney Jackie Lacey supports it.

Colorado

Last Friday, the Amendment 64 campaign demanded an apology from opponents for smearing a retired veteran Denver police officer as a "rent a cop." The description came from Roger Sherman, head of the No on 64 campaign, and was in response to a series of endorsements of Amendment 64 by law enforcement personnel and organizations. It was aimed at retired Lt. Tony Ryan, a Denver Police Medal of Honor recipient and Purple Heart holder. Sherman has yet to respond to the invitation to apologize.

Also last Friday, conservative former congressman Tom Tancredo endorsed Amendment 64. He sent a letter to some Republican state lawmakers outlining his support. "I have decided that it presents a responsible, effective and much-needed solution to a misguided policy," he said in the letter. "Eighty years ago, Colorado voters concerned about the health and safety of their families and communities approved a ballot initiative to repeal alcohol prohibition prior to it being done by the federal government. This November, we have the opportunity to end the equally problematic and ineffective policy of marijuana prohibition."

Massachusetts

On Monday, US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren (D) said she supported medical marijuana. "You know, I held my father's hand while he died of cancer, and it's really painful when you do something like that up close and personal," she said in an interview. "My mother was already gone and I was very very close to my father. And it puts me in a position of saying, if there's something a physician can prescribe that can help someone who is suffering, I'm in favor of that. Now, I want to make sure they've got the right restrictions. It should be like any other prescription drug. That there's careful control over it. But I think it's really hard to watch somebody suffer that you love." That wasn't a direct endorsement of the initiative, Question 3, but pretty darned close.

Montana

A poll released last week showed I-124, the initiative to undo the legislature's gutting of the state's 2004 voter-approved medical marijuana law, at under 50%. That's a good thing, because a "yes" vote endorses the legislative gutting. Only 44% of those polled said they would vote "yes," but with 31% saying they would vote "no," that still leaves a large uncommitted bloc.

Oregon

Last Wednesday, former Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradley endorsed Measure 80. "Our nation's war on drugs has really been, for decades now, a war on Americans of color and our poorest, most vulnerable citizens, and the ban on agricultural hemp has been the collateral damage" said Bradbury. "I urge my fellow Oregonians to vote yes on Measure 80, which is an historic opportunity to show our fellow Americans a way to end the failed drug war, begin a new, sensible approach to marijuana, and restore hemp to our farmers and hi-tech entrepreneurs for biofuel, textiles, and advanced manufacturing."

Washington

See our feature article this week on the state of play for Washington's I-502 initiative here.

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