Ohio "Treatment Not Jail" Initiative Runs Into Drug War Buzzsaw 11/8/02

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6. Ohio "Treatment Not Jail" Initiative Runs Into Drug War Buzzsaw

Issue One, the proposed Ohio constitutional amendment that would have made drug treatment instead of jail stays a guaranteed option for first- and second-time drug offenders, was crushed at the polls Tuesday, losing by a two-to-one margin. The Ohio campaign marked the emergence of formidable, coordinated opposition to the wave of -- until this year -- successful drug reform initiatives funded by a quartet of wealthy individuals.

"Issue One is deader than a dodo," crowed Republican Gov. Robert Taft less than two hours after the polls closed Tuesday. Taft and his wife, Hope, led a strong campaign against the initiative -- one that may well have strayed over the line of unlawful government conduct, as Dan Forbes reported earlier this fall. State and local elected and appointed officials in several states worked with federal government officials to craft an anti-reform strategy that managed to keep initiatives off the ballot in Florida and Michigan and bring crushing defeat to the Ohio measure.

(And as Forbes reported this week, Hope Taft may have added assault to the list of offenses against drug reformers. Medical marijuana activist Dee Dee Zoretic was physically restrained from addressing the governor by Mrs. Taft at a campaign event in Cleveland. Taft responded to Zoretic's allegation with a "fine non-denial denial," Forbes reported. Visit http://www.drugwar.com/forbesfirstladytaft.shtm for the story.)

In a major coup for the anti forces, Ohio officials crafted ballot language for the measure that put the amendment's estimated seven-year cost of $247 million right in front of voters' eyes on the ballot. The ballot language made no mention of the estimated $20 million annual net savings the measure would have garnered for Ohio taxpayers. But it wasn't merely a question of bad wording on the ballot. The anti forces crafted a statewide coalition of law enforcement, drug court judges, and treatment providers that filled op-ed pages and local television news stories with invective decrying the initiative. And, of course, drug czar John Walters came to the state to amplify the message against drug reform.

And while the initiative battle took on a partisan tinge when Democratic gubernatorial challenger Tim Hagan endorsed Issue One, other Ohio Democrats joined the Republican state establishment in foiling Issue One. Toledo's Democratic Mayor Jack Ford, for instance, was a co-chair of the anti-Issue One organization, while Democratic judges stood with their GOP brethren in defense of their sentencing prerogatives. Ford was rewarded for his efforts when Gov. Taft called him "a true profile in courage" for opposing the initiative.

Initiative opponents also hammered on the "billionaire outsiders" theme to good effect, despite the fact that two of the big funders, Peter Lewis of Progressive Insurance and Richard Wolfe, have strong Ohio ties. "A few people thought their will and their money could buy an election," said Hope Taft, reprising the theme Tuesday night. "I'm here to tell them that Ohio is not for sale."

For the moment, at least, the Campaign for New Drug Policies and its Ohio affiliate are hanging tough. Even as he accepted defeat Tuesday evening, Ohio initiative campaign head Ed Orlett told the Toledo Blade the group had just begun to fight. "They've won a small skirmish in what is a great battle. It's a rather hollow victory based on a very negative campaign. I've had judges tell me that there are courtrooms where first-time offenders are sent to jail and it's a tremendous cost that we don't need to bear," he said.

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Issue #262, 11/8/02 Editorial: More to This Vote Than Meets the Eye | Black Tuesday for Drug Reform | Arizona Steps Back as Decrim Initiative Loses, Anti-Reform Sentencing Initiative Wins | Legal Pot in Nevada? Not This Year | New York: Pataki Victory Swamps Dems, Golisano, Marijuana Reform Party, Libertarians | Ohio "Treatment Not Jail" Initiative Runs Into Drug War Buzzsaw | No Hemp, No New Rights for Defendants in South Dakota | Wisconsin: Libertarian Thompson Gets Ten Percent | DC Voters Overwhelmingly Approve Treatment Not Jail Initiative | Massachusetts Voters Tell Reps to Support Marijuana Decrim | San Francisco Voters Ask City to Look at Growing Its Own | FAMM Victory: Amendment to Cap Federal Guideline Sentences for Low-Level Drug Offenders is Now Law | Colombian Campaign for Drug Legalization | Anti-Prohibitionists Meet Human Rights Advocates and Political Leaders at Albania Congress of Transnational Radical Party | Newsbrief: Nordic Prohibitionists Beginning Counter-Campaign Supporting UN Drug Conventions | Web Scan: Forbes on Hope Taft, Newsday on Tony Papa, New Scientist on Cannabis, Raich v. Ashcroft Lawsuit Docs | Action Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision, Tulia, Salvia Divinorum | The Reformer's Calendar
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