Ballot Measures

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Phil Smith Debates Kevin Sabet on "The Fix" Today

Our own Drug War Chronicle editor Phillip Smith debates former ONDCP senior adviser Kevin Sabet on the addiction and recovery web site The Fix today:

Should Marijuana Be Legal?
Tomorrow, three states will vote on the most profound change in US drug laws since the repeal of the Volstead Act in 1933. The Fix offers two powerful opposing views on whether legalizing weed is the right thing to do.
 

By the way, Phil is on the way to Denver right now, where he will be reporting live on Amendment 64. He will then be attending the National Marijuana Business Conference, also in Denver.

I-502: Too Important to Lose (Steve D'Angelo, Harborside Health Center)

The founder of the flagship medical marijuana center, Harborside Health Center in Oakland, speaks out about how important it is to pass I-502 and how damaging a "no" vote on it could be for people's lives.

If You Care About Medical Marijuana Patients (Among Others), Support I-502

Readers of StoptheDrugWar.org know that we've supported Initiative 502, a ballot measure to legalize and regulate marijuana in Washington State. I-502 has seen the strongest polling among the three legalization measures on state ballots this year, and has attracted significant mainstream support -- its chances of passing this Tuesday are good. The measure has also been the subject of controversy within the movement, particularly over a "per se" DUI provision some advocates believe will unfairly snare some users including patients. If you've followed our coverage of I-502 in Drug War Chronicle, including two of our recent features (here and here), you're familiar with all of this.

Today StoptheDrugWar.org formally endorses Initiative 502. In this post I explain why we believe the measure helps, not harms, most medical marijuana patients, and defeating it would therefore harm patients; why I believe other attacks leveled against the measure to be misguided, despite some legitimate concerns; and why we at StoptheDrugWar.org consider passage of I-502 to be critically important.

The reality facing Washington's patients today is that they may soon lose safe access to marijuana. The federal government is conducting a sustained attacked on the medical marijuana supply system in states across the nation, including Washington's, and local opponents have also stepped up their efforts. Legislation that would have authorized dispensaries, which could have provided some political cover for providers in Washington, was vetoed by the governor. Just this August the DEA sent 23 threat letters to dispensaries in Washington, only the latest of many moves against the industry. And there is no indication that DOJ under Obama or Romney will let up after the election, hope for that as we might. Washington a few years from now may have no medical marijuana supply system at all, if something doesn't change to shift the balance in our favor.

In Washington, the medical marijuana system is already a smaller one than available in some other medical marijuana states, despite courageous efforts by its leaders. Fewer patients qualify for legal protections under the list of conditions authorized under state law; it's likely that a smaller proportion of the state's residents live within easy geographic proximity to a dispensary as well. A 2011 report by See Change Strategy, prepared before the escalated federal and local crackdowns, found 11,000 dispensary customers in Washington, compared with 500,000 in California -- fewer than 1/8 as many, adjusted for the states' populations. Compared with Colorado, Washington's system -- again, before the crackdown -- served fewer than 1/14 as many people, adjusted for population.

But even those numbers understate the true depth of harm done to patients by the current system. All of us know people who suffer from conditions that could well be treatable using marijuana, but who may never find that out -- because they won't try it while it's illegal, or because their physicians aren't comfortable recommending marijuana without being able to guarantee the quality of the supply. Along with the current patients whose current safe access to marijuana may be slipping away, this other, possibly much larger group of potential patients, are also being badly harmed by the current situation -- by prohibition.

In the face of the federal onslaught, we believe a victory is needed at the ballot in order to shift the political dynamics in our favor. While some have suggested this could be accomplished in 2014, with a different initiative, that seems poorly thought out. Along with that meaning two more years and all that can happen in that time, 2014 is an off year election. That means that election turnout demographics will work against any such initiative, because off years favor the conservative voting base that leans against marijuana reform, over the liberal base that leans toward it. Funders witnessing a loss this year by a carefully regulated initiative, will in turn be unlikely to bet on a more loosely written one passing the next time. Progress of this scale -- enactment by a state's voters of actual legalization, not just medical marijuana or decriminalization, a historic first -- will probably be out of reach again until 2016. Public support for legalization in principle continues to grow and is now around 50% nationally. But while we believe support for legalization is likely to continue to grow, we don't know that it will and we can't take that for granted, especially if we don't win something. Legalization needs a victory this year.

We also believe that more people than just the currently recognized patients need the protections that legalization of possession -- and of legal sales, if I-502's state-licensed stores survive the likely federal opposition -- will provide for them. Washington had between 12,000 and 15,000 arrests per year between 2006 and 2010 -- 240,000 total marijuana arrests from 1986 to 2010. Those include minors who will still face age limit laws under I-502. But half or more of these arrests would clearly stop under the new law. A marijuana arrest is a big deal; in Washington it includes a fine and mandatory jail time in most cases. Defendants spend money on legal fees; they face restricted access to housing and college aid; they become disadvantaged in the job market.

I-502 won't undo all of this harm, but it will undo a lot of it. The characterizations opponents have made of the initiative as providing only "limited" or "modest" benefit are bogus. Even more strained is the claim some opponents have made that I-502 is not even legalization. But I-502 legalizes possession and sale of marijuana, albeit within a particular framework -- of course it's legalization. Some forms of legalization do more of what we want than other forms. Advocates make compromises, if they are effective, because they understand that that is what's needed to change things.

A final argument opponents have made is that I-502 is not legalization because federal law will preempt the state licensing system and could endanger other parts of the law. But while preemption is a risk, it's not a given -- no federal prosecutor has even tried to legally preempt a state's medical marijuana law, for example, in 16 years of them. And the same line of reasoning would say that any legalization bill passed by a state would really not be legalization, because federal prohibition is still in place. Which of course makes no sense -- and which would mean that initiatives some critics of I-502 have attempted to place on the ballot were not legalization either. Obviously our goal is to change both federal and state law.

It's possible we might have reached a different conclusion about I-502, if we were persuaded that DUI busts because of I-502 could happen commonly. But the critics have ignored key facts about the issue in order to make that case. The provision excludes the inactive but long-lingering marijuana metabolite, THC-COOH, from the reach of the law, counting only the shorter acting THC metabolite. It leaves in place the "probable cause" requirement on police of impairment being demonstrated before they can lawfully stop a driver and order a drug test. Police still need to spend time and money taking a driver to the station for a full drug test -- they can't just write a ticket and drop the drugs off for testing later.

Perhaps for these reasons, the 13 states that already have similar provisions have not seen perceptible increases in DUI busts. Yet movement opponents of I-502 scarcely acknowledge any of these points; a recent editorial by Sensible Washington treasurer Anthony Martinelli is a good example. Leaving them out skews the issue very badly. Conversely, however, one should admit that some marijuana users in Washington may get stuck with a DUI charge that they don't deserve -- and if you're one of those few people, it won't necessarily help you that there are only a few. There is a legitimate issue at stake with the DUI provision and it's a legitimate discussion to have. But it's a very different scenario than the doomsayers have presented.

It has been charged that movement opposition to I-502 is driven by the financial motivations of people profiting from medical marijuana under the current system. But while this is doubtless one thing that is going on, some of the critics of I-502 are respected advocates, including personal friends, who have never had a financial motivation for their activism. With all due respect to them, we believe they have badly misjudged the I-502 question, in at least the following ways: They have misidentified the primary threats facing medical marijuana patients. They have dramatically overestimated the realistic impact of the DUI provision -- ignoring relevant facts in order to do so. And they have underplayed the scope and significance that passage of I-502 will have, both legally and politically.

StoptheDrugWar.org endorses Initiative 502, a major step forward for the legalization movement, and a necessary step to help secure the rights of many thousands of marijuana users, including patients, and others.

[Washington's I-502 is one of three initiatives on state ballots to regulate rather than prohibit marijuana. We encourage all supportive parties, as we have before, to make phone calls to likely supportive voters in Colorado and Oregon -- for which a "phonebanking" web site has been provided by our allies -- for those in Washington to contact the campaign to volunteer in person. Links to the campaigns and to a "phonebanking" web site provided by our allies are linked to from our election resources web page at http://stopthedrugwar.org/election2012.]

Five Days Out, Washington Marijuana Measure at 55%

Washington state's I-502 marijuana legalization, taxation, and regulation initiative appears headed for victory with increasing support, according to the latest KCTS 9 Washington Poll, released last Thursday. The poll had support among likely voters at 55.4% in surveys conducted during the second half of October, compared to 47.1% in surveys conducted in the first half of the month.

[Editor's Note: I-502 passed with 55.44% of the vote]

Similarly, opposition to I-502 was declining, from 40.1% earlier in the month to 37.6% in the second half of the month. The figures suggest that undecided voters have been breaking in favor of the initiative.

The 55.4% support figure includes 48.7% who are "certain yes" voters, 4.3% who are "yes -- could change," and 2.8% who are "undecided -- leaning yes." The 37.6% "no" figure includes 35.5% "certain no" voters, 1.6% "no -- could change," and 0.5% who are "undecided -- leaning no." Some 6.8% of voters remained truly undecided, while 0.3% said they would not vote on I-502.

I-502 is winning majorities of every age group except seniors (44%), including nearly three out of four (74.8%) voters under 30. It is running strongly (63%) in the progressive, heavily populated Puget Sound area and among Democrats (69.1%), men (64.2%), and independents (60%). It is doing less well with women, although women supporters (48.0%) outnumber opponents (40.6).

One-third (33.4%) of those surveyed have already voted, the poll found.

Pollsters surveyed 722 registered voters between October 18 and 31. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.6%.

WA
United States

November 6: An Election to Stop the Drug War [FEATURE]

We are now only five days away from Election Day, and it's starting to look very much like at least one state will vote to legalize marijuana, possibly two, and, if the gods are really smiling down, three. It's also looking like there will soon be at least one more medical marijuana state, and like California will finally reform its three strikes sentencing law.

Amendment 64 billboard (regulatemarijuana.org)
There are also local initiatives on the ballot in California, Massachusetts, and Michigan, including a Detroit initiative that would legalize the possession of up to an ounce at home by adults. And there are races for elected office that merit watching, the most interesting of which is probably former El Paso city councilmember and legalization supporter Beto O'Rourke, who is running for Congress. O'Rourke already knocked off Democratic incumbent drug warrior Sylvestre Reyes in the primary and appears ready to cruise to victory Tuesday.

The Chronicle will be in Denver election night for what we hope is the making of history. On Tuesday night and into the wee hours Wednesday morning, we will be posting relevant election results as fast as we can get our hands on them. In the meantime, here's what we'll be watching:

Marijuana Legalization Initiatives

Colorado -- Amendment 64 would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana or six marijuana plants, three of which could be mature. It would create a system of state-licensed cultivation, manufacturing, and testing facilities and state-licensed retail stores. Local governments would have the option of regulating or prohibiting such facilities. The amendment would also require the state legislature to enact legislation governing industrial hemp cultivation, processing, and sale, and to create an excise tax on wholesale marijuana sales. The first $40 million of that annual revenue would be dedicated to building public schools.

Amendment 64 has been hovering right around 50% in recent polls, but was at 53% with only 5% undecided in the most recent poll. The final push is on. The Chronicle will be reporting from Denver Tuesday night.

Oregon -- Measure 80, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA), would create an Oregon Cannabis Commission to regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana, but not industrial hemp, which would be allowed, but not regulated by the commission. The commission would grant licenses to cultivate marijuana for sale to it by "all qualified applicants" and would sell marijuana at state retail stores at prices it determines. Medical marijuana patients would have their medicine provided at cost. OCTA would supersede all state and local laws regarding marijuana, except for impaired driving laws, leaving personal possession and cultivation by adults unregulated.

Measure 80, which came late to the ballot and which has been chronically underfunded since making the ballot, has trailed consistently in the polls. The most recent poll had it losing 42% to 49%, but the campaign bravely says the polls are undercounting supporter and it can still win.

Washington -- Initiative 502 would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and over, but does not allow for personal cultivation, except by or for medical marijuana patients. It would license marijuana cultivation and retail and wholesale sales, with restrictions on advertising. Regulation would be the remit of the state liquor control board, which would have to come up with rules by December 2013. The measure would create a 25% excise tax on marijuana sales, with 40% of revenues dedicated to the general fund and 60% dedicated to substance abuse prevention, research, and healthcare. It would create a per se driving under the influence standard of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.

The I-502 campaign has raised more than $5 million and assembled an all-star cast of establishment law enforcement and political endorsers. Polling almost universally at more than 50%, this looks like an even better shot for legalization to pass than Colorado.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas -- The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act would allow patients suffering from specified diseases or medical conditions to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. It envisions a system of state-licensed nonprofit dispensaries, and would allow patients or their caregivers to grow their own only if they are not within five miles of a dispensary. In that case, patients could grow up to six flowering plants. Patients could possess up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana.

Known as Issue 5 on the ballot, the Arkansas initiative is the first one in the South, and if it wins, it would be the first southern state to embrace medical marijuana. But the most recent polls have rising opposition. Issue 5 was in a virtual dead heat with a 47% to 46% lead in late July, but last week, the same pollster had it trailing 38% to 54%.

Massachusetts -- Question 3 would allow people suffering from a debilitating medical condition to use medical marijuana upon the recommendation of a doctor with whom they have a bona fide relationship. Patients could possess up to a 60-day supply -- what constitutes that supply will be determined by the Department of Health. The initiative would also set up a system of nonprofit medical marijuana cultivation and distribution centers.

While vocal opposition has arisen in the final weeks of the campaign, Question 3 has enjoyed a commanding lead throughout and appears well-placed to join the ranks of Northeastern medical marijuana states on Tuesday.

Montana -- Initiative Referendum 124 would undo the gutting of the state's medical marijuana program through the passage last year of Senate Bill 423. That bill replaced the voter-approved medical marijuana program, which allowed for dispensary sales, with a new scheme that limited providers to serving only three patients, prohibited providers from accepting anything of value in exchange for products or services, granted local governments the power to regulate providers, tightened standards for demonstrating chronic pain, and demanded reviews of doctors who certified more than 25 patients in a one-year period.

The campaigners behind IR-124 are in the unique position of hoping it loses. That's because a "yes" vote endorses the legislature's gutting of the state's medical marijuana law last year, while a "no" vote rejects it and restores the voter-approved 2004 law. Polling has been scarce, but one recent poll had IR-124 losing (and more access to medical marijuana winning) with 44% of the vote.

Sentencing

California -- Proposition 36 would reform the state's three strikes law, which allows a life sentence for a third felony conviction. The measure would allow life sentences only if the new felony conviction is "serious or violent," authorize re-sentencing for lifers if their third conviction was not "serious or violent" and if a judge determines their release would not pose an unreasonable risk to public safety, allow life sentences if the third conviction was for "certain non-serious, non-violent sex or drug offenses or involved firearm possession," and keep the life sentence for felons whose previous convictions were for rape, murder, or child molestation. If approved by voters, some 3,000 three strikes lifers could seek reductions.

This stealth initiative has gone almost unnoticed amidst a plethora of other state-level initiatives, but appears poised to win. Of four recent polls, three had it at 63% or higher, while the only poll in which it wasn't over 50% had it leading 44% to 22%, with a huge 34% undecided.

Local Initiatives

California -- A number of towns, mostly in the San Diego area, will vote on local initiatives to allow medical marijuana dispensaries. Those include Del Mar, Imperial Beach, Lemon Grove, and Solana Beach, as well as Palo Alto. The town of Dunsmuir will vote on whether to loosen cultivation regulations.

Colorado -- Fort Collins will be voting on whether to overturn the ban on dispensaries voted in last November, and Berthoud will be voting on whether to allow dispensaries.

Massachusetts -- In a continuation of work done in the past six election cycles, voters in a number of legislative districts will be asked a non-binding public policy question. In the First Essex and Middlesex Senate District, the Eighth Essex House District, and the Twenty-Second Essex House District voters will be asked whether they support repeal of the "federal prohibition of marijuana, as the 21st Amendment repealed national prohibition of alcohol, so that states may regulate it as they choose?" Voters in the Second Middlesex Senate District, the Middlesex and Suffolk Senate District, and the Second Berkshire House District will answer a similar question.

Michigan -- Voters in Detroit and Flint will vote on marijuana legalization initiatives, voters in Grand Rapids will vote on decriminalization, Kalamazoo will vote on an initiative to allow dispensaries, and Ypsilanti will vote on a lowest law enforcement priority initiative.

Drug Policy and the Presidential Election

Drug policy has pretty much been a non-issue in the presidential campaign. The one place where marijuana policy positions could influence the statewide electoral outcome is Colorado. Marijuana is a big issue in the state, not only because Amendment 64 is on the ballot, but also because of the ongoing war of attrition waged against dispensaries there by the DEA and the US Attorney. (The Colorado Patient Voters Project tracks federal activity against medical marijuana in the state, as does our own Medical Marijuana Update series, accessible with other relevant reporting in our medical marijuana archive section.)

And it's a tight race where one third party candidate in particular, Gary Johnson, is making a strong run and exploiting his popular legalization position on marijuana. While the Real Clear Politics average of Colorado polls has Obama up 48.2% to Romney's 47.7%, the race tightens up when Johnson is included in the polls, even though who he hurts more varies from poll to poll.

If Obama loses Colorado, be prepared for the argument that he did so at least in part because of his poor positions on marijuana.

(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.)

Oregon Marijuana Measure Still Trails in Late Poll

Measure 80, Oregon's marijuana legalization initiative, continues to trail in the polls as the clock ticks ever closer to Election Day. According to a new poll conducted for The Oregonian and released Tuesday, the measure is losing among likely voters, with 49% opposed and 42% in favor.

Of the three marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot next week -- the other two are Colorado and Washington -- Oregon's Measure 80 is the most radical, calling for outright repeal of the state's marijuana laws and the creation of a commission to oversee the commercial cultivation and distribution of marijuana.

It is also the least well-funded. While Colorado and Washington are seeing multi-million dollar legalization campaigns, the big donor money has stayed out of Oregon. The reasons for that include a lack of favorable early polling, the lateness of Measure 80 in making the ballot (it only did so in July), and lingering controversies over the reputation of medical marijuana entrepreneur Paul Stanford, Measure 80's chief proponent. Stanford came up with enough money to get Measure 80 on the ballot, but not enough to finance an advertising campaign.

The latest poll shows Measure 80 with majority support among Democrats (55%), but not independents (41%) or Republicans (23%). It also garners majority support among voters under 35, but not among any other age group. Among voters over 65, who vote heavily, only 30% support Measure 80, while 62% are opposed.

Another key demographic that is dragging the measure down is women. While men split almost evenly on the issue, a majority of women (52%) oppose it, while only 37% support it.

Still, Yes on 80 campaign spokesman Roy Kaufmann told The Oregonian it isn't over yet. Pollsters tend to undercount younger voters who are harder to reach, he said, and older voters may be reluctant to admit they favor voting for "an issue that's still considered by many to be taboo."  The campaign "still has work to do, but we're within fighting distance," he said.

The poll was conducted October 25 through 28 by Seattle-based Elway polling and surveyed nearly a thousand likely voters statewide. It has a margin of error of +/- 5%.

OR
United States

Colorado Marijuana Measure Hits 53% in New Poll

In a poll conducted mid-week last week, Public Policy Polling has Colorado's Amendment 64 marijuana legalization initiative winning, with 53% of respondents saying they would vote for it. Only 43% were opposed, with 5% still undecided.

The critical women's demographic appears to be moving toward support of Amendment 64. (regulatemarijuana.org)
The number is up slightly from recent polls, one of which had the measure leading by a margin of 48% to 43%. The second recent poll had the measure at 50%, with 40% opposed.

What had begun to appear as shrinking support among women voters in those two recent polls appears to have reversed in this latest poll. It has women supporting Amendment 64 by a margin of 50% to 46%.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is pulling out the stops as Election Day draws near. The well-funded campaign is running two TV advertisements and a radio ad featuring single Melissa Etheridge. It also had actress Susan Sarandon doing robo-calls to still-undecided voters.

But the campaign is taking nothing for granted, and it is asking supporters around the country to go to the phone banking website set up by Firedog Lake and make calls to the as yet uncommitted. In such a tight race, every potential "yes" vote counts.

The Public Policy Polling survey contacted 904 likely voters. The margin of error is +/- 3.3%.

CO
United States

Volunteer to Pass Marijuana Legalization This Election

The news cycle is awash with polls and news about the close race for president. But the most important votes happening next month may be historic initiatives to legalize and regulate marijuana -- and these are also going to be close.

You can help these and other initiatives we're supporting, and I hope that between now and Election Day you'll be able to. First, we have partnered with FireDogLake and the "Just Say Now" campaign to do phonebanking in support of Colorado's Amendment 64 and Oregon's Measure 80. (Other initiatives may be added to the site too.) Visit http://fdl.platform.webstrong.com/dna/network/groups/ to open an account -- select StoptheDrugWar.org as your "group," if you're willing to help us in that way -- and make phone calls for legalization! There are two options for Colorado, by the way -- one of them general, the other for women to call other women voters in the state.

There are other state initiatives that need your support, including marijuana legalization in Washington, medical marijuana in Arkansas and Montana and Massachusetts, and an important initiative in California to reform the state's draconian "three-strikes" law. Please visit our Election 2012 Resource Page at http://stopthedrugwar.org/election2012 for links to the campaign web sites where you can find volunteer information; the audio recording of our 9/27/12 teleconference with representatives of the legalization initiatives; and a link to our full election coverage archive page, where you can find feature stories we've published in Drug War Chronicle on almost all of these initiatives, Phil's weekly "Initiative Watch" feature, and more.

Please donate to help StoptheDrugWar.org to continue to grow and support the movement, to continue the press for legalization, and to prepare for the next stage after one or more of these measures passes in November. For donations of $35 or more, you can receive one of the two new books or the video that we're offering --  -- donate $95 or more for all three -- click here for all the details.

Thank you for standing with drug policy reform at this amazing and critical time. I believe that something big will happen this November -- with your help.

Initiative Watch

We're getting down to the final days, and the action around drug reform initiatives is fierce. Let's get to it:

National

On Sunday, the Obama administration said it would be unswayed if one or more states voted for marijuana legalization. Appearing on CBS's "60 Minutes," Deputy Attorney General James Cole, author of the infamous "Cole memo" authorizing the current federal offensive against medical marijuana dispensaries, said the federal government was ready to fight any "dangers" from legalizing marijuana. He said the administration's stance on legalization would be "the same as it's always been" regardless of what voters decide. "We're going to take a look at whether or not there are dangers to the community from the sale of marijuana and we're going to go after those dangers," Cole said.

Arkansas

Last Thursday, a state agency head distributed talking points against Issue 5, the state's medical marijuana initiative. Jennifer Gallaher, head of the Arkansas Division of Behavioral Health Services, issued the talking points, which consistently refer to "medical" marijuana. A spokesperson for the Department of Human Services defended the propriety of the talking points, noting that "Mrs. Gallaher's office gathered factual information on the issue and shared it with her staff, which is absolutely appropriate given what that division does."

Also last Thursday, TV talk show host Montel Williams visited the state to campaign for Issue 5. He appeared at a campaign event at the state capitol along with members of Arkansans for Compassionate Care. Williams, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, has become a strong public advocate for medical marijuana. Williams and others present used to occasion to criticize as racist an anti-Issue 5 ad put out by the conservative Family Council Action Committee. The ad at one point features a scary looking black man measuring out marijuana.

Last Friday, the state's top anti-drug official and the Chamber of Commerce came out against Issue 5. State Drug Director Fran Flener said she and the groups planned to speak out against the measure. "While our group's vision of compassion does not include smoked marijuana as a medicine, it does include elements that we consider equally important measures of compassion," Flener said. She said those include "compassion for our citizens who travel our roads and our highways," ''the prevention of the establishment of crime-ridden dispensaries" and "the prevention of marijuana abuse particularly by children and teens." Also joining Flener in opposition were the Arkansas Sheriffs Association and the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police. The groups plan to air advertisements against the measure.

On Monday, the co-chair of the legislature's Joint Budget Committee endorsed Issue 5. Rep. Kathy Webb (D-Little Rock) said she had already voted for it. Early voting began Monday.

On Tuesday, GOP Congressman Tim Griffin said he opposes Issue 5. His Democratic, Green, and Libertarian challengers have all said they support it.

On Wednesday, a group of doctors said they opposed Issue 5. Led by Little Rock Dr. David Smith, the group said marijuana hasn't been scientifically proven as a treatment to relieve suffering.

California

On Tuesday, Grover Norquist penned an op-ed supporting Proposition 36, the Three Strikes sentencing reform initiative. Norquist, the conservative head of Americans for Tax Reform, wrote that "It is unjust and foolhardy to waste precious prison resources on nonviolent individuals who pose no criminal threat to our communities (while releasing violent criminals). These nonviolent offenders should be punished -- but conservatives should insist the punishments are fair, effective and efficient. Proposition 36 is a reform all conservatives can and should support."

Colorado

Last Wednesday, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol released its second TV ad. The message of the ad is simply and direct. Marijuana is not dangerous and government resources currently wasted enforcing marijuana prohibition would be much better spent elsewhere.

Last Thursday, actress Susan Sarandon began voicing robocalls for Amendment 64, the state's marijuana legalization initiative. Sarandon is on the advisory board of the Marijuana Policy Project, which has contributed more than a million dollars to the campaign.

Last Friday, Amendment 64 supporters rallied at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson was there and told attendees "Colorado has the opportunity to change drug policy worldwide."

On Monday, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock came out against Amendment 64, saying he feared it would make Denver "a marijuana capital." The Amendment 64 campaign quickly counterattacked, saying "We are disappointed that Mayor Hancock is not basing his public policy on evidence. It is well-established that the gateway effect is not an effect of marijuana itself, but rather of marijuana prohibition. When you want to buy a six pack of beer -- a substance our elected officials are happy to celebrate -- you go to the store and buy a six pack, and the cashier doesn't offer you harder drugs. The same cannot be said for the gangs and cartels, who our opponents seem to prefer be in charge of the vast non-medical marijuana market in Colorado."

Massachusetts

On Monday, opponents and proponents of Question 3, the medical marijuana initiative, held dueling press conferences. Opponents from law enforcement and elected officials denounced it as "vague, ambitious, and open to exploitation" and warned that the path to death from drug abuse starts with "smoking that innocent little joint." But proponents of the measure, including Dr. Karen Munkacy, scoffed. "There's no property of medical marijuana that causes people to die," she said, adding that medical marijuana is a "gateway backwards," leading people off of addictive and harmful painkillers.

Also on Monday, the conservative Boston Herald came out against Question 3, warning that it was "the camel nose under the tent" for "the pro-pot lobby." Marijuana is not like other medicines, the Herald opined, because it isn't FDA approved. Worse yet, the campaign is "bankrolled by a wealthy pro-pot pooh-bah" (Peter Lewis) and "is part of a broader effort to normalize its sale and use."

Montana

See our feature article about the Montana medical marijuana initiative this week here.

Oregon

Last week, phone banking for Measure 80, the state's legalization initiative, got underway. A joint project of Firedog Lake and Oregonians for Law Reform, the phone bank push allows you to call Oregon voters to encourage them to vote yes on Measure 80. Firedog Lake has been doing the same thing in Colorado for some weeks now.

Last Friday, the Portland Mercury endorsed Measure 80. The Mercury is the state's second largest alternative weekly. It joins the state's largest alternative weekly, the Willamette Week, which has also endorsed the initiative.

Also last Friday, Measure 80 was still trailing in the polls. The latest poll from SurveyUSA had it losing 36% to 43%, but with nearly one-quarter of the voters still undecided.

Washington

As of Tuesday, I-502 was maintaining a lead in the polls. A Strategies 360 poll had the marijuana legalization initiative leading 54% to 38% with 7% undecided. In two polls late last week, it was leading 55% to 36% in one and 47% to 40% in the other, which queried only likely voters.

(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.)

When Losing Means Winning: The Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative [FEATURE]

Last year wasn't a good year for medical marijuana in Montana. Between the federal raids in the spring of 2011 and the Republican-dominated legislature's efforts first to repeal the voter-approved 2004 medical marijuana law, which was vetoed by Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D), and then to gut it with Senate Bill 423, which Schweitzer reluctantly allowed to become law, the state's medical marijuana industry has been practically decimated.

But although 2012 is nearly over, Big Sky County medical marijuana supporters are hoping this year will end up differently. That's because they have an initiated referendum on the ballot, IR-124, that would undo the legislature's passage of Senate Bill 423 and restore the status quo ante.

From an initiative organizer's standpoint, IR-124 has some interesting attributes. First, the medical marijuana people behind IR-124 want it to be defeated. A "no" vote on the initiative is a vote against Senate Bill 423, and the conventional wisdom on initiatives is that voters who are uncertain on an issue vote "no." Second, Montanans who oppose the free-wheeling medical marijuana system that was in place prior to Senate Bill 423 may well be confused by the fact that IR-124 is being run by medical marijuana supporters and vote "no" mistakenly thinking they are voting against medical marijuana.

"Our opponents have accused us of muddying the water, but it wasn't a strategic ploy; it's just a thumbs up or thumbs down on the current law," said Chris Lindsay of the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, which is fighting SB 423 in the courts as well as supporting IR-124.

There hasn't been a lot of polling on IR-124, but what there is suggests repeal of SB 423 could well be within reach. There has been no scientific polling this month, but two September polls, one from Mason-Dixon and one from Public Policy Polling, had IR-124 losing with 44% and 46% of the vote, respectively. And that's just what Patients for Reform -- Not Repeal, the primary group behind the campaign, wants.

"We're urging voters to vote 'no' on IR-124, because it is a slap in the face to voters as well as cruel and harmful to the seriously sick patients Montanans sought to help," said Bob Brigham, campaign manager for the group. "The legislature should have fixed the medical marijuana program, not broken it completely with a 'repeal and destroy' law," he explained. "With the federal government also punishing patients and providers and even threatening their gun rights, it is vitally important that Montana voters stand solidly for their own rights."

But while the polls had IR-124 losing, campaign proponents aren't feeling comfortable. Those same polls showed only around 30% of voters committed to voting "no," with about 25% of voters undecided. While undecided voters typically break towards a "no" vote on initiatives, Patients for Reform -- Not Repeal is going to have to win about four out of five of those undecided voters to undo SB 423.

The campaign is counting on Montana voters to reject the legislature's interference with the voter-approved 2004 initiative that established the state's medical marijuana program, Brigham said.

"We're calling attention to the fact that this is an issue that revolves around voter rights and the will of the people," he said. "Rather than work on consensus proposals for strict regulation, all the legislature wanted to do was repeal the law voters had adopted -- and they did it twice. Senate Bill 423 was written deliberately to accomplish complete repeal. The tragedy is that the very patients Montanans care about, the sickest among us, are now suffering unnecessarily and unfairly as a result," Brigham concluded.

Under the 2004 law, and especially after the Obama administration took office and signaled it would not target medical marijuana patients and providers, the Montana medical marijuana scene took off, with dispensaries and multi-patient grow operations sprouting up and some entrepreneurs pushing the limits of public acceptance by pulling stunts like taking recommendation-writing caravans across the state and publicly smoking marijuana.

The legislature's attempted outright repeal, followed by SB 423, was in part in a response to the perceived excesses of the program. But SB 423 pretty much wiped out everything except patients growing their own. It limited growers to three patients each, prohibited providers from being compensated, gave local governments the ability to ban dispensaries, tightened standards for demonstrating chronic pain, and required doctors who recommended marijuana for more than 25 patients in a year to undergo reviews at their own expense.

The Montana Cannabis Industry Association has been fighting SB 423 in the state courts, but in August, the state Supreme Court overturned a lower court injunction blocking most of its provisions from taking effect. Now the high court is set to rule on a final appeal from the group any time now. Lindsay said Tuesday morning he hoped the election would come before the court rules.

"The moment the Supreme Court is done, we expect that 5,500 Montana patients will be told they no longer have a provider and they will have to find a new one, which is unlikely, or grow their own," he said. "We're hoping we get to the election first, because a victory there would render moot what the Supreme Court is considering."

That didn't happen. Tuesday afternoon, the state Supreme Court ruled against the Montana Cannabis Industries Association.

"We expect the Department of Health and Human Services to start sending letters out to 5,500 patients saying they no longer have a provider," Lindsay said in a late afternoon call to the Chronicle breaking the news.

While the late ruling hurts patients, it may prove a boon to the "no" campaign. Now, patients and providers who may have thought that life under SB 423 would not be so bad are being confronted with the reality of its actual implementation.

It will probably also make life tougher for supporters of SB 423. Although there isn't a lot of organized support for the law, it does have cheerleaders among the Republican legislators who passed it and among social conservative groups like the Billings-based Safe Communities, Safe Kids.

But Safe Communities, Safe Kids doesn't have money for much of an advertising campaign and is relying on local radio and TV talk show appearances to get its message out. It also tried holding a press conference last week to attack state Attorney General Steve Bullock over the ballot language, but that didn't work out too well for the church ladies.

"You're trying to pull a political stunt using a mechanism that is not set up for this purpose," said Jim Molloy, an assistant attorney general to Bullock, who crashed the press conference and noted that the ballot language had been vetted and settled on two months ago. The threat to file a late complaint was "nothing more than political theater," he said.

"We didn't realize it was going to be such a big problem until the ballots came out," the group's Cherie Brady tried to explain. She said after absentee ballots came out on October 9, her group began getting calls from voters unsure of how to fill out their ballots.

While foes of medical marijuana are reduced to morning talk shows and exploding press conferences, Patients for Reform -- Not Repeal is running limited radio and TV ads urging a "no" vote. It is also preparing a final push to get voters to the polls on election day.

"It's an exciting campaign," said Lindsay. "We've got a lot of momentum behind trying to repeal the law. We're hoping for the best."



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