Washington Initiative 502

RSS Feed for this category

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.)

Latest Polls Show Washington Marijuana Initiative Tightening, Oregon Trailing

New polling data released in the past week shows Washington's I-502 marijuana legalization initiative still ahead, but not comfortably so, and Oregon's Measure 80 continuing to trail. The polls come as the campaign season enters its final weeks.

In Washington, a SurveyUSA/KING 5 News poll showed I-502 winning with 55% in favor and 36% opposed. Only 8% said they were still undecided. That's good news since because it suggests that for I-502 to lose, it would not only have to lose every undecided voter, but also one out of ten of the people who say they are voting for it.

But a second poll, released Thursday, is a bit more concerning. In the KCTS 9 Washington poll of registered and likely voters, I-502 led by 50.9% to 40.8% among registered voters and 47.1% to 40.1% among likely voters. That's still a seven-to-ten-point lead, but the measure polls that high only when counting not only "certain" yes voters, but also "Yes -- could change" and "Undecided -- leaning yes" voters.

Using only "certain" voters, the race gets tighter. Among registered "certain" voters, 38.4% were voting yes, while 35.0% were voting no. Among likely "certain" voters, 37.2% were voting yes, while 31.8% were voting no.

I-502 still appears favored to win, but it's white-knuckle time for those steering the campaign.

It's not looking as good in Oregon. Measure 80 continues to trail in a new SurveyUSA poll and is in fact declining slightly in popularity from a SurveyUSA poll done five weeks ago. Only 36% of respondents said they were voting for Measure 80, while 43% said they were voting against. The initiative has lost one point since the previous poll, while the opposition has gained two points.

That still leaves more than one out of five voters undecided, meaning Measure 80 could theoretically still triumph. But it would have to hold onto all of its "yes" voters and pick up two-thirds of the undecideds to do so, and that is an exceedingly tall order.

Measure 80 has majority support among only one demographic group, liberals, where it garners 60%. It has lost previous majority support among Democrats and independents and trails among all age groups. It looks like it will be back to the drawing board for Oregon activists.

Gary Johnson Supporters Robocall Colorado Democrats Over Marijuana Crackdown

Colorado is a tightly-contested swing state. According to the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls, Republican challenger Mitt Romney holds a vanishingly narrow lead over President Obama of 47.8% to 47.6%. In a national election that appears to be growing tighter in the final weeks, Colorado could end up deciding who wins.

Gary Johnson
It is also a state where there are two reasons marijuana is at play as a political issue. Most significantly, it is the site of the Amendment 64 Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol legalization campaign, which maintains a shrinking lead in recent polls, and which has generated reams of media coverage in recent weeks. But it is also one of the medical marijuana states that have seen their dispensary systems threatened by heavy-handed federal interventions, which has generated ill-feeling toward the Obama administration in some quarters.

And it is a state where Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, the former Republican governor of neighboring New Mexico, is making a strong push, with marijuana legalization and marijuana policy as one of his strongest talking points. Johnson isn't included in those polls mentioned above, but when pollsters do bother to include him, as Public Policy Polling did last month and Politico did this month, he's bringing in about 5% of the vote -- and he takes three votes away from Obama for every two he takes from Romney. [Update: The latest PPP poll, released Monday, shows Johnson taking away slightly more from Romney than Obama.]

Democrats may have been hoping that turnout by supporters of marijuana legalization would help them cruise to victory in Colorado, but Johnson is doing his best to separate those voters from the Democrats who hope to own them. Johnson has been stumping feverishly on legalization, and his campaign has smartly used all the attention paid to the initiative to generate attention for his position and his candidacy.

Now, as David Sirota points out in an excellent analysis of pot and presidential politics in Colorado in Salon, things have escalated, with pro-Johnson robo-call ads identified with the Utah-based libertarian think tank the Libertas Institute going out to Democratic voters with a message that should be chilling for Democrats:

"Hello, fellow Democrat," a friendly male voice says. "Like you I was thrilled to vote for Barack Obama in 2008. In 2008, candidate Obama promised not to use the Justice Department to prosecute medical marijuana in states where it was legal. But the real Obama did just that, more than doubling prosecutions, putting people in prisons and shutting down medical marijuana facilities in Colorado. That's not the change you wanted on health freedom. But you can still be a force for hope and change by voting for Gary Johnson."

Could Gary Johnson peel off enough voters disenchanted with the Obama administration's medical marijuana stance and motivated by a chance to vote for marijuana legalization to throw the state, and just possibly, the national election, to Romney? We will know in less than two weeks.

(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.)

CO
United States

Initiative Watch

With less than three weeks to go until election day, there is a lot of activity on the state-level initiative front- -- but not everywhere. Some campaigns are staying mighty quiet, and that's a strategy that could work for them. Let's get to it:

National

On Monday, former DEA heads and drug czars reiterated their call for the Justice Department to attack marijuana legalization initiatives. The drug warriors are attempting to pressure Attorney General Eric Holder to take a public stand against the initiatives.

"Next month in Colorado, Oregon and Washington states, voters will vote on legalizing marijuana," Peter Bensinger, the moderater of the call and former administrator of the DEA during the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations, began the call. "Federal law, the US Constitution and Supreme Court decisions say that this cannot be done because federal law preempts state law. And there is a bigger danger that touches every one of us -- legalizing marijuana threatens public health and safety. In states that have legalized medical marijuana, drug driving arrests, accidents, and drug overdose deaths have skyrocketed. Drug treatment admissions are up and the number of teens using this gateway drug is up dramatically."

That prompted a response from the Marijuana Policy Project: "These former officials are stuck in the mindset that we can arrest our way to decreased marijuana use," said Morgan Fox, the group's communications manager. "This policy has obviously failed and at great cost. We need to treat marijuana as a public health issue and stop wasting resources arresting adults for using something that is demonstrably safer than alcohol. Unfortunately, people like these former officials, who have made careers out of keeping marijuana illegal, are promoting federal interference against reform efforts. Individual states need to be free to experiment with polices that give control of the marijuana market to legitimate businesses instead of criminals and that do not include arrest or incarceration. The federal government should be encouraging states to explore alternatives to ineffective policies rather than expensively and uniformly pursuing continued failure."

Arkansas

On Monday, the Arkansas Pharmacists Association said it would oppose Issue 5, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act. The association said it opposed the measure because it does not incorporate pharmacists and would lead to conflicts with federal law. The pharmacists said they weren't taking a position on medical marijuana, only on the initiative. They said if Arkansas wants medical marijuana, it should pursue regulatory changes to get it rescheduled.

On Wednesday, the Arkansas Times endorsed Issue 5. The Little Rock alternative weekly said it has "misgivings" about legalizing medical marijuana given federal opposition, but said it was always a safe bet to line up opposite the "hateful" Arkansas Family Council, which opposes it.

California

See our feature story on the Three Strikes sentencing reform initiative, Proposition 36, this week here.

Colorado

Last Friday, musician Melissa Etheridge endorsed Amendment 64, the state's legalization initiative. She appears on a new radio ad and talks about her personal experience with marijuana, first as a cancer patient, and then as a legalization advocate.

On Sunday, a new poll had Amendment 64 still winning, but with a shrinking margin. The initiative was ahead 48% to 43%, but was seeing declines in support among women, people with a college degree, and some other demographics. A poll a week earlier had Amendment 64 at 50% with a 10-point lead.

On Monday, the United Food and Commercial Workers endorsed Amendment 64, saying it would create jobs and bolster the state and local economies. UFCW Local 7, which represents 25,000 workers in Colorado and Wyoming is the state's largest union. "Amendment 64 will foster economic growth and enhance public safety for our members across Colorado," said UFCW Local 7 president Kim Cordova. "Removing marijuana from the underground market and regulating it similarly to alcohol will create living-wage jobs and bolster our state and local economies with tens of millions of dollars in new tax revenue and savings. By taking marijuana off the streets and putting it in retail stores, we can stop steering money toward gangs and drug cartels, and start directing it toward legitimate, job-producing Colorado businesses."

On Tuesday, two dozen state clergy and faith leaders endorsed Amendment 64. "How we punish people and what we punish them for are central moral questions," said the Rev. Bill Kurton. "If a punishment policy fails to meet its objectives and causes harms to humans, I believe we have a moral obligation to support change. Our laws punishing marijuana use have caused more harm than good to our society and that is why I am supporting replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of strict regulation with sensible safeguards."

Massachusetts

The buttoned-down Question 3 campaign is keeping mighty quiet as its medical marijuana initiative maintains a comfortable lead in polls.

Montana

The I-124 campaign, which seeks a "no" vote to repeal the legislature's gutting last year of the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law, is also staying quiet.

Oregon

Last Friday, Clear Channel Communications agreed to take down a series of billboards put up by groups tied to the Florida-based Drug Free America Foundation, operated by long-time drug warriors Mel and Betty Sembler. The communications giant acted after online protests by Women for Measure 80, the state's legalization initiative. The billboards featured a photograph of a young woman who appeared strung out on crack or meth, not marijuana. "The ads protesting marijuana are being removed because our policy is transparency of advertising campaigns and the advertisers who are sponsoring them," said a Clear Channel spokesman. "These ads include a misleading website that we believe needed to honestly represent the advertiser so the ads are being removed."

On Monday, Measure 80 supporters rallied at the state capitol. Several dozen showed up to show their support.

Washington

Last Thursday, researchers reported that there had been 240,000 marijuana possession arrests in the state in the past 25 years. Police made more than half of those marijuana arrests in just the last 10 years. Nearly four out of five arrested were under age 35, and ethnic minorities were arrested at rates disproportionate to their makeup of the population. The report was prepared by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, which has produced studies of marijuana possession arrests in New York, California, and major US cities.

Last Friday, I-502 proponent Rick Steves was heckled at the state capitol rotunda by about 20 noisy protestors, including medical marijuana advocates who bitterly oppose the initiative. Four or five of the protestors were escorted out of the building by state police, and Rep. Sam Hunt, an I-502 supporter, got into a scuffle with one of the opponents.

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.

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

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.)

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.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School

StopTheDrugWar Video Archive