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Marianas Islands Marijuana Legalization Bill Passes House

A bill to legalize marijuana passed the House in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI), a US territory, November 4. But the governor says he would only sign a medical marijuana bill, and the Senate appears poised to kill it.

Saipan -- moving toward a tropical paradise
Still, its passage marks the first time a pot legalization bill has passed in a legislative chamber in any US territory.

The bill, HB 17-45, was championed by Rep. Stanley Torres (I-Saipan). It would "allow individuals 21 years or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use; permit the regulation and taxation of the commercial production and sale to people 21 years old or older," while barring pot possession on school grounds and use in the presence of minors.

Earlier this year, a cost-benefit analysis performed by the House Committee on Natural Resources said enacting the bill into law "will possibly result in the loss of federal funds but at the same time the Commonwealth government will generate funds through taxation."

Torres and other legalization supporters also argued that the bill would allow access to marijuana by the ill and reduce crime and violence in black markets.

But Senate President Paul Manglona (R-Rota) said Wednesday that the Senate will kill the bill next. "It's for the same reasons I mentioned before," he told the Saipan Tribune, citing concerns about marijuana use's impact on CNMI youth and other ill effects on the community.

And Gov. Beningno Fitial signaled that he was okay with medical marijuana, but not for non-medical.
"I support it for medicinal use," Fitial told reporters. "I never smoke marijuana myself so I cannot talk much about it because I don't have the experience."

Saipan
United States Minor Outlying Islands

LA City Council Pushes for Medical Marijuana Tax on March Ballot

Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States
The Los Angeles City Council pushed for a ballot measure to begin taxing medical marijuana. There are cities in California that tax medical marijuana, such as San Jose, La Puente, Oakland, Richmond, Sacramento, and Berkeley. With a vote of 9-3 the Los Angeles City Council has informed city attorney’s to draft a ballot measure for the March 8 election in favor of taxing marijuana.
Publication/Source: 
Examiner.com (CO)
URL: 
http://www.examiner.com/city-hall-in-los-angeles/la-city-council-pushes-for-medical-marijuana-tax-on-march-ballot

The Marijuana Legalization Movement Takes Aim at 2012 [FEATURE]

Disappointed yet emboldened by Proposition 19's eight point loss a week ago, state and national marijuana legalization leaders are already planning to push for initiatives in as many as five states in 2012. Meetings in California and Colorado in the past few days are laying the groundwork for legalization initiatives there, and similar efforts are being talked about for Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

Rep. Tom Ammiano will get even more attention now.
With election post-mortems already yielding to pre-planning the next campaigns, the legalization movement smells victory in the air not too far down the road. And the Yes On 19 campaign team is hitting the ground running.

"I just got out of a meeting where we're trying to put together an all-star team to be the board for a 2012 campaign," said Richard Lee, the Oakland medical marijuana entrepreneur behind the Prop 19 campaign. "We're hoping to have a formal announcement Thursday, but we'll see how that goes."

If it happens, though, don't count on Lee to be kicking in a million-plus dollars again. "Part of the reason for building this coalition is that I'm tapped out," said Lee. "But I think we got our money's worth, we got a $100 million worth of free media."

The meeting Lee mentioned was of the group's steering board, said activist team Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris, who were there. "We're exploring another initiative run in 2012, and it's looking pretty likely because we achieved so much with this campaign, especially with the coalitions we built to support this effort," said Norris.

"There is a real interest in making sure the activist base is included," said Conrad. "We want to try to avoid the divisiveness of this campaign," he added, alluding to intramural attacks from some growers, the Stoners Against Prop 19 types, and elements of the medical marijuana community. "But people feel they have to have a certain thing, and how can you achieve unity like that? People have to be able to compromise," he said.

National reform groups are also feeling optimistic about 2012. "Even though we lost in California, Richard ended up doing a good thing for the movement," said NORML founder Keith Stroup. "When you look at what went on in the last six or eight months, I don’t think legalization was ever taken seriously by politicians and the press until now. It was probably worth the three or four million spent on that to force marijuana legalization into the national and international spotlight."

Despite this year's loss, "the big picture is Gallup polls showing support higher than ever," said Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Mike Meno. "Even some Californians who voted against Prop 19 believe it should be legal. On the central issue, it seems the public is increasingly on our side and heading for a majority."

Prop 19 brought the issue center stage, Meno said. "This year, we had more mainstream press coverage than ever, the debate is out in the open, and many Americans are now for the first time in their lives really thinking seriously about legalizing marijuana."

"There seems to be a consensus around working toward 2012," said Meno. "It's a presidential election year, and there will be more young voters. If the polls continue to trend up, there's no reason not to optimistic that states like Colorado or Washington couldn’t pass something like Prop 19. We're looking at strategically supporting a pair of legalization initiatives in Colorado and California. Support is high, and we have two more years to build on that."

"If I were a betting man, I'd say there's a better than 50-50 chance we'll see initiatives in California and Colorado, said Drug Policy Alliance head Ethan Nadelmann. "It's hard to say about the other states at this point."

Nadelmann saw three possibilities for 2012 initiatives. "First is that badly drafted initiatives get on the ballot and then lose badly," he said. "But my hope is that well-drafted initiatives get on the ballot with strong majority support, and that inspires wealthy donors to provide backing. The third possibility is that well-drafted initiatives get on the ballot notwithstanding the fact they have less than 50% going in. The challenge in that case will be to ensure that even though they are likely headed for defeat, they move the ball forward like Prop 19 and Colorado in 2006."

Initiative campaigns will focus on a number of themes, said Nadelmann. "You have the continuing nightmare in Mexico, you have the surveys showing young people saying it's easier to buy pot than alcohol, and you have the continuing indictment of the failures of prohibition," he said. "And evidence that decriminalization is not enough. Decrim in California and New York did not prevent massive increases in arrests in the past 20 years and the racial disproportionality that accompanied them. Legalization may have its risks, but it's preferable to the status quo.

There are a few cautionary voices when it comes to another legalization initiative in California. "Another initiative here in California might be a good idea, but it's premature to say that," said Dale Gieringer of California NORML. CANORML supported Prop 19, but Gieringer from the beginning voiced doubts about its prospects for success. He has doubts again about 2012 in California.

"California voters don’t really like to have the same issue revisited in successive elections," he said. "There have been a bunch of issues that have failed under those circumstances," he recalled, ticking off parental concept for abortion, eminent domain reform, and a school voucher initiative. "I can't think of a case where people have been able to flip the vote in two years," the student of California politics said.

Gieringer also raised another potential problem. "Who is going to fund it? Richard Lee said he doesn’t have the money to do it again. You need a million dollars to get on the ballot," he pointed out. "If I were a major funder, I'd be looking at a less expensive state," he said.

Still, Gieringer said, CANORML would be holding a statewide conference in January to try to begin to see if there is a consensus that can be reached among the state's complex and fractious pot community.

It doesn’t have to be an initiative. There is the legislative process, and this year, Rep. Tom Ammiano managed to get his legalization bill through the Assembly Public Safety Committee. He'll be back at it next year.

"We will be reintroducing our bill to tax and regulate at the beginning of the next session," said Ammiano spokesperson Quintin Mecke. "We'll be looking at any possible changes between now and then."

Mecke credited Prop 19 with moving the issue forward. "I think Prop 19 has put marijuana firmly in the mainstream conversation and the public policy conversation is now being debated at the highest levels of government. People can't just make jokes about it anymore. We are getting close to challenging this notion that we can deal with marijuana simply through law enforcement."

And it doesn't have to be California.In Colorado, SAFER (Safe Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation) and Sensible Colorado last Thursday announced that they were pushing ahead with a legalization initiative for 2012. And Saturday, a statewide conference brought national movement figures including SSDP head Aaron Houston, Drug Policy Alliance head Ethan Nadelmann, Steve Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project, and Prop 19's Jeff Jones to Denver to help lay the groundwork. The Saturday summit was also the scene of the announcement of a second initiative campaign, Legalize It 2012, a Jack Herer-style "freedom based" measure, led by Laura Kriho of the Boulder-based Cannabis Therapy Institute.

"There is a great deal of interest in a 2012 statewide initiative to regulate marijuana and start treating it like alcohol," said SAFER's Tvert.  "I think we're poised to make this happen. We've seen support go up dramatically over the past five years and internal polls had it at about 50% this year. Attitudes here have reached a point where this is very realistic," he said.

"The folks in Colorado are determined to go forward even if the polls are not promising," said Nadelmann. "We are committed to trying to make this as smart and tight an initiative as possible, even though it will be difficult to raise money."

"We need to get a lot of folks opinion on this, particularly the medical marijuana industry here, where we have hundreds of licensed medical marijuana centers," Tvert said. "We hope to work with them to pass a law that will benefit everyone. There is no specific language yet, but that is what we are beginning to get together."

Tvert said he hoped the community would coalesce around one initiative. "People are doing polling and seeing what language will work," he said. "I hope in the end we will go forward with one initiative that will be the best law possible."

As noted above, similar efforts are underway in Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. The marijuana reform movement thinks it is can go over the top in the next election cycle. Only 103 weeks until we find out if they're right.

California Cities Approve Marijuana Taxes, Reject Dispensary Bans

Californians may not be quite ready to legalize marijuana, but they're eager to tax it. Local ballot measures to tax medical marijuana (or recreational pot, if Prop 19 had passed) passed overwhelmingly in several Bay Area cities, while voters in two coastal cities rejected measures to ban dispensaries.

marijuana money talks
In Sacramento, voters approved a measure to tax medical marijuana businesses at 4% passed with 71% of the vote. In San Jose, a 10% marijuana tax was approved with 78% of the vote. In Oakland, a measure raising the marijuana tax from 1.8% to 5% passed with 70% of the vote.

In Berkeley, voters approved a 2.5% medical marijuana tax with 82% of the vote a measure to allow licensed gardens with 64% of the vote. Richmond approved a 5% medical marijuana tax with 78% of the vote, while Albany approved a pot business tax with 83% of the vote.

Outside the Bay Area, Stockton approved a 2.5% medical marijuana business tax with 66% of the vote, and 72% of Long Beach voters approved a tax on recreational pot sales. In the Los Angeles suburb of La Puente, voters approved separate measures to tax medical and recreational marijuana. In the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova, voters approved a measure requiring all marijuana grows to pay up to $600 per square foot for grows up to 25 square feet and approved a tax on recreational pot with 67% of the vote.

California NORML
called the Rancho Cordova grow tax "excessive," and Americans for Safe Access said it does not consider the passage of measures to tax medical marijuana "any sort of victory whatsoever." Increasing medical marijuana taxes is "absolutely unacceptable and will ultimately burden patients at the point of sale," the group said.

Measures to ban dispensaries failed in Santa Barbara, 39% to 61%, and in Morro Bay, 45% to 55%.

CA
United States

SurveyUSA: Prop 19 Ahead 48% to 44%

Proposition 19, the initiative to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in California, is maintaining a narrow lead, according to poll results released Wednesday by SurveyUSA. The poll of 621 likely and actual voters (early voting started two weeks ago) was taken between Friday and Sunday and had the initiative leading 48% to 44%, with 8% undecided.

[Editor's Note: A Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday night had contrary results. It was too late for this week's Chronicle, but you can read about it here.]

 

Election Day not far away
The findings are roughly in line with more than a dozen other polls taken on Prop 19 this year, all but four of which have the measure leading. According to the Talking Points Memo Polltracker, the average of all polls has Prop 19 leading 46.8% to 44.5%. The polltracker, however, has not been updated with this latest SurveyUSA poll. Once it is, support will increase slightly, while opposition will decrease slightly.

SurveyUSA has done six polls on Prop 19, and they show support declining slightly from 50% in the earliest surveys. They also show opposition rising slightly. It was at 40% in July, peaked at 43% in September, then declined to 41% early this month before rising to 44% in the current poll.

With a four percent margin of error, this latest SurveyUSA poll shows a very tight race indeed. With undecideds beginning a not unexpected peeling off toward a "no" vote, voter turnout is going to be key to victory on November 2.

CA
United States

Fox News Poll: Prop 19 Marijuana Initiative in Dead Heat

California's Proposition 19 tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative is in a statistical dead heat, according to a Fox News Poll released Tuesday. The poll, taken last Friday, had the electorate split 47-46 against the measure, well within the poll's three-point margin of error.

Fox released no cross-tabs, so there are no breakdowns by race, age, gender, political party, ideology, or location.

The poll showed both Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown and Democratic US senate candidate Barbara Boxer pulling ahead of Republican challengers Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina. Other polls have shown strong support for Prop 19 among Democratic voters, even though Brown, Boxer, and most Democratic elected officials oppose the initiative. If a Brown/Boxer surge reflects improved prospects for Democratic turnout, that would be good news for Prop 19, which is favored 2-1 among Democratic voters but opposed by the same margin by Republicans.

Even with the Fox News Poll showing Prop 19 trailing by one and a Reuters/Ipsos poll two weeks ago showing it trailing by 10, the Talking Points Memo Polltracker average of all polls this year still shows Prop 19 leading by 46.8% to 44.5%. Of all the polls conducted since the beginning of September, only the Reuters/Ipsos poll showed it losing. All the other polls showed Prop 19 in the lead, although only one of them had it over 50%.

Get out the vote efforts will be critical between now and November 2, just two weeks from now. To get involved, visit  our latest action alert and follow the links. You don't need to be in California to volunteer for Prop 19; all you need is a phone.

CA
United States

House Committee Decides Marijuana Regulation Proposal is ‘Too Much, Too Soon’ for NH (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                 

Oct. 13, 2010

House Committee Decides Marijuana Regulation Proposal is ‘Too Much, Too Soon’ for NH

Committee Members Say They Prefer to Focus on Passing a Medical Marijuana Law and Decriminalizing Personal Possession

CONTACT: Matt Simon, NH Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy…………………(603) 391-7450

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Today, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee concluded its interim study process on HB 1652, which would tax and regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol, and passed on the opportunity to recommend the bill for next legislative session.  Rep. David Welch (R-Kingston) said he felt the proposal was simply “too much, too soon,” a phrase that was echoed by several other committee members over the course of a nearly hour-long discussion.

            Matt Simon, executive director for the NH Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy (NH Common Sense), described the interim study process as “very positive and productive overall.”  He commended legislators for considering the proposal “objectively and with open minds” before reaching their decision.

            “When we first pitched the idea of making marijuana legal for adults back in 2007, many members of this committee scoffed at the idea,” Simon explained.  “It’s very encouraging to see the committee now appear to be split between outright support for the issue and concern that it may be ‘too much, too soon.’”

            A four-member subcommittee conducted the interim study and produced a report recommending that the bill be reintroduced.  The subcommittee voted 2-2 on its positive report this morning, which sent the report forward to the full committee for consideration.  After failing to reach consensus, the committee voted 15-2 against explicitly recommending future legislation on the subject.

            In a Feb. 11 vote, the committee voted 16-2 in favor of HB 1653, a bill that would have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. That bill passed the House 214-137 but failed to gain traction in the Senate following a veto threat from Gov. John Lynch.

            When the committee first voted on HB 1652 Jan. 27, members nearly passed the bill in an 8-10 vote before agreeing (16-2) to refer the bill for interim study.  Of the bill’s eight supporters, four were Republicans and four were Democrats. 

            The bill, sponsored by Reps. Calvin Pratt (R-Goffstown), Joel Winters (D-Manchester), Timothy Comerford (R-Fremont), and Carla Skinder (D-Cornish), would have made it legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana.  It also created a framework by which the production and sale of marijuana could be regulated and taxed by the state.  Advocates contrasted this vision with the current state of affairs, in which the lucrative marijuana marketplace is left entirely in the hands of criminal gangs and cartels.

            Advocates for marijuana regulation will now turn their attention to California, where voters will decide whether or not the Golden State should legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana.  In all, 5 state legislatures across the U.S. considered bills in 2010 that would have regulated and taxed marijuana similarly to alcohol.  It was the first year in which bills of this nature have ever been seriously considered by state legislatures.

            “Some New Hampshire legislators have expressed concerns about what the federal government’s response would be if this passed,” Simon observed.  “If California voters pass Prop 19 in November, we may all have an answer to that question very soon.”

            Advocates said they would “take a step back” and observe new developments nationally before reintroducing the bill, but they did not view this vote as a setback.

            “There’s no question -- a bill like this will be reintroduced in a future session,” Simon concluded.  “New Hampshire is quickly reaching the conclusion that marijuana is safer than alcohol, and once that is understood, there is no good argument left for continuing the expensive, futile prohibition of marijuana.”

###

Location: 
NH
United States

Which Way on Election Day? Pollsters Analyze Prop 19 and Its Chances [FEATURE]

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/yeson19button.jpg
four weeks to go!
California's Proposition 19, the tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative, is certainly the most talked about ballot measure in the land this year. It is just as certainly the most polled of any initiative this year.

No fewer than a baker's dozen polls have surveyed Golden State voters since May of this year, and at least one more will appear the weekend before election day. The average for all the polls so far has Prop 19 winning 47.4%, with 43.2% opposed and 9.4% undecided.

The numbers would have been better for Prop 19 except for Monday's Reuter/Ipsos poll, which bucked the trend to show Prop 19 losing by 10 points. It is one of only three polls that show the measure losing; one was a Field Poll in July and the other was another Reuters/Ipsos poll in June.

Here are the results of the 13 polls, beginning with the most recent:
 

DatePollSupportOppose
10/04/10Reuters/Ipsos43.0%53.0%
10/03/10Public Policy Institute of California52.0%41.0%
09/21/10SurveyUSA47.0%42.0%
09/21/10Field Poll49.0%42.0%
09/16/10PPP (D)47.0%38.0%
09/01/10SurveyUSA47.0%43.0%
08/11/10SurveyUSA50.0%40.0%
07/25/10PPP (D)52.0%36.0%
07/11/10SurveyUSA50.0%40.0%
07/05/10Field Poll44.0%48.0%
06/27/10Reuters/Ipsos48.0%50.0%
05/26/10Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (D)49.0%41.0%
05/16/10Public Policy Institute of California49.0%48.0%

While support for Prop 19 has been nearly unchanged in the last six months, as this Talking Points Memo graph demonstrates, opposition has been declining and the gap between yes and no votes is growing--except in Monday's Reuters/Ipsis poll.

"What is remarkable is that the polls agree so closely," said Jay Leve, CEO of SurveyUSA. "Initiatives are among the most difficult things for pollsters to poll, because many of them are about arcane things that nobody knows about, like 30-year bond issues, so the polls can be all over the place. But in this one, the issue is pretty clear, and that's reflected in the agreement among the polls."

"Our surveys get more accurate the closer we get to election Day," said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, which had Prop 19 trailing by four points in July, but leading by seven in September. "In our second survey, we were able to read voters the actual ballot question," he noted.

Field will be taking one more poll before the election, DiCamillo said. "We will release our final poll the weekend before the election," he announced. "It will be much more insightful."

But with less than a month to go, things are looking pretty good for Prop 19. Liberals, Democrats, and young voters consistently showed strong support for Prop 19 across all the polls, suggesting, somewhat paradoxically, that voters motivated by support for Prop 19 could help the campaigns of Democrats gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown and Sen. Barbara Boxer, both of whom have come out in opposition to legalization. Likewise, if surging Brown and Boxer campaigns bring out Democratic and liberal voters, they are going to be likely to vote for Prop 19 despite the positions of their gubernatorial and senatorial candidates.

But Republicans, who oppose Prop 19 by margins of 2-1, are also counting on a massive turnout. If the primary is a reliable indicator, they could see just that. In 2008, Democrats made up 42% of the electorate and Republicans just 30%, but Republican enthusiasm this year could close that gap. In the primaries, where only 33% of the electorate voted, 44% of Republicans did, while only 32% of Democrats did. A strong GOP turnout combined with weak turnout among Democrats could spell doom for the measure.

If polling for some groups has been consistent, that hasn't been the case for others, especially black voters. For example, at one point, the Field Poll had Prop 19 losing by 12 points among black voters, while just weeks later Public Policy Polling had it up by 36 points. Black voters only account for 6% of the state's electorate, so the results may suffer from too small a sample size.

Pollster Nate Silver of Fivethirtyeight.com had another possible explanation, one he called the "Broadus Effect," after one Calvin Broadus -- better known as the rapper and major pot aficionado, Snoop Dog. It's a variation on the "Bradley Effect," named for former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who lost a mayoral race despite leading in the polls before election time.

The "Bradley Effect" posits that polls can be skewed by respondents who reply with what they think are the politically correct answers, rather than what they really think. Silver noted that automated robo-phone polls were showing higher support among blacks than polls done with human poll-takers.

"This might also explain why the split is larger among black and Hispanic voters," Silver wrote. "Marijuana usage is almost certainly more stigmatized when associated with minorities, and drug possession arrests occur much more frequently in minority communities. This is in spite of the fact that rates of marijuana consumption are only a smidgen higher among blacks than among whites, and are somewhat lower among Hispanics."

Pollsters are congenitally cautious about making predictions on actual election results, but both DiCamillo and Leve made heavily hedged predictions. "Usually, the burden of proof is on the proposition," said DiCamillo. "It's always on the yes side to make its case. In this case, there is a lead, but it's not quite at 50% plus one. Most initiatives do get a few percentage points out of the undecideds, so you'd expect this one to be favored for passage, but it's not a slam dunk."

Undecideds would have to break dramatically toward a no vote for the initiative to lose if the poll average today holds until Election Day. With Prop 19 at nearly 48% and undecideds at just under 10%, it would need to pick up just better than one out of five of those voters to get over the top.

And DiCamillo says Prop 19's prospects are good, barring some sort of October surprise. "If somebody came in and started advertising heavily against it, that could change things," he warned. So far, there's been no sign of that, but there is still time for a late TV ad campaign.

SurveyUSA's Leve was only a bit more definitive. "That it's maintaining a 10-point lead is good for the initiative, but that it's having trouble getting that 50% plus one is not," said Leve. "It's sort of a glass half full thing. If I was in Las Vegas and I was a betting man, I'd bet on it to win," said Leve. "But I'd only bet money I could afford to lose."

With less than a month out Prop 19 is leading by an average of more than four points. A historic victory for marijuana legalization may be coming into view, but Election Day will be a nailbiter, and its going to depend on turnout and those undecideds.

CA
United States

Washington Prosecutor Candidate Makes Drug Reform a Key Issue [FEATURE]

Snohomish County, Washington, stretches from the Seattle suburbs in the south to the city of Everett in the north. It encompasses the Pacific Coast and the Cascade Range, and come November, its 700,000 citizens will be electing a new prosecutor. One of the candidates is staking out a very progressive position on drug policy.

Jim Kenny with firefighters (jimkenny.org)
The campaign pits incumbent prosecutor Mark Roe against challenger Jim Kenny. Both are long-time prosecutors, Roe in Snohomish County and Kenny in Seattle, and both are Democrats. But only one supported I-1068, this year's failed marijuana legalization initiative, and only one is trying to make drug policy reform a winning issue. That would be Jim Kenny.

Under Washington election law, the top two vote-getters in the primary go to the general election ballot, regardless of party affiliation. Roe won the primary with 67% of the vote, while Kenny came in second with 31%.

"You could say I'm the underdog," Kenny told the Chronicle this week. "But we do have a plan to turn those numbers around and win in the general election. We think we can double the turnout over the primary election," he said.

With both candidates running as Democrats and experienced prosecutors, the challenger is looking for issues to differentiate himself from the incumbent, and for Kenny, drug policy is one of those issues. Reformist stances are drug policy positions are prominently displayed on his campaign web site's issues page. Roe does not even have an issues page.

Kenny supported I-1068 because "it was the right thing to do," he said. "I supported 1068 for a variety of reasons," said the veteran prosecutor. "I think it was the right thing to do to end 40 years of the war on drugs and marijuana prohibition. It could have had financial benefits for the state through a redirection of law enforcement resources or potentially even a reduction in the need for those resources."

Kenny pointed out that there were 12,000 marijuana prosecutions in Washington in 2008. "Those prosecutions cost the state more than $18 million," he said. "If you legalize marijuana, you would reduce the need for all those arrests, prosecutions, and incarcerations. You can save those resources, or redirect them to fight real crime."

"You could also tax marijuana, and those tax dollars would be a real financial benefit to the state," he said.

"Another reason 1068 made a lot of sense," Kenny continued, "is that it started allowing our community in the state of Washington to look at drugs within a public health model instead of a criminal justice model. We spent 40 years prosecuting people for drugs, but now the Obama administration has come out with a new drug control strategy that walks away from war on drugs rhetoric and talks about dealing with drugs as a public health issue. It didn't involve any changing of programs or funding, but I think it's significant for the federal government to disavow the term 'war on drugs.' That provides the opportunity for people at the local level, for prosecutors, to run with it. I'm afraid the federal government may not take more significant steps in that direction, but it is something local governments can run with."

Kenny also sought to draw a sharp line between himself and Roe on medical marijuana. "My opponent is prosecuting some sick and injured people as felons for marijuana distribution, and I think that's the wrong thing to do," Kenny said. "People with medical marijuana authorizations should be treated as patients, not criminals."

Talking drug policy reform could be a winning issue, or at least not a losing one in Western Washington, said Seattle attorney Rachel Kurtz. "I feel like we're pretty advanced here," she said. "[Drug reformer and state representative] Roger Goodman runs for office, and in his last election he was attacked for not doing enough on drug reform. In this financial climate, drug policy reform is seen as a way to save money and taxes. I don't think Kenny is going to lose because of his drug policy stances. The electorate is becoming smarter and you can use those old tactics anymore," she said.

Kenny isn't just talking about pot. He is also advocating innovative criminal justice measures to reduce incarceration levels and promising to bring transparency to police-involved shootings. It's all part of what he calls "smart on crime" policies, as opposed to "tough on crime."

"We need to continue to incarcerate serious and violent offenders, but for low- and mid-level offenders we can do more," Kenny said. "In other cities across the country, they are using some innovative ideas to help people help themselves by addressing root causes, such as mental health and drug and alcohol problems," he said, pointing to problem-solving courts, such as drug court, mental health court, and veterans' court.

Snohomish County, with a large naval base and veteran population, should have a veterans' court, Kenny argued. "It's a specialized court with a redirection of resources where you might take in all the vets' cases," he said. "It's really about asking these defendants what's going on with them, why are they doing this, looking at their criminal histories and asking how we can change this. Ideally, it involves additional resources, particularly getting people into alcohol and drug treatment. It's about slowing down the process and asking why, and that makes a real difference."

The county does have a drug court, Kenny noted, but needs more problem-solving courts. "Those programs have been expanded in places in the country and the state, and we need to bring them to Snohomish County."

He also favors alternative sentencing arrangements. "Work crews, electronic monitoring, community service -- all of those keep people out of jail and allow us to not have to build a second jail any time in the near future. If we can use these tools to reduce recidivism, especially without putting people in jail, that would be a good thing," he said. "My conservative opponents don't like to focus on the fact that jail can be a school for criminals."

Kenny is also taking a strong stand on accountability for police-involved killings. In the past 18 months, Snohomish police have shot six people to death and Tasered one to death. Those killings need a light shone on them, he said.

"That's a real concern. I want to establish mandatory inquests," he said. "Inquests are not a criminal case, but a fact-finding investigation to find out what happened and whether it was justified. We need some transparency for these incidents where police use lethal force in the name of the community. There is currently no inquest, so unless the decedent files a lawsuit, we may never hear what happened in that particular case. And even then, civil cases are settled out of court all the time. Bad things could be happening and we never learn the details of why."

Mandatory inquests would be "good for the community and good for the police," Kenny said. "It gives police the opportunity to take the stand and explain why they used lethal force. They should explain to the community why. It costs some money, but it will provide transparency, and the community can rely on the fact that the police are doing the right thing."

When, running on a drug reform platform, New York prosecutor David Soares defeated the incumbent in the Albany County district attorney race in 2004, it was a shock. It is a measure of how far we have come that if Kenny manages to pull off a long-shot victory in November, it will be no shock at all, just a pleasant surprise.

(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.)

Everett, WA
United States

Taxing Cannabis, By the Numbers

Relevant figures applicable to the debate over legalizing cannabis in California via Proposition 19 are presented.
Publication/Source: 
The California Independent Voter Network (CA)
URL: 
http://caivn.org/article/2010/09/14/taxing-cannabis-numbers

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