Making it Official: More Initiatives Move Toward November Ballot 7/9/04

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The number of marijuana-related voter initiatives headed for the ballot in November continues to increase as Oakland made it official this week and statewide initiative organizers in Arkansas and Oregon marked signature hand-ins that should ensure voters in those states have the chance to vote on medical marijuana this fall. Two weeks ago, DRCNet reported on initiatives making the ballot in Ann Arbor, MI, Berkeley, CA, and a signature hand-in in Montana that should mean Big Sky voters will be grappling with medical marijuana, too (

More medical marijuana initiative votes are already set for Detroit (in August) and Columbia, Missouri. The Missouri college town will also host a "lowest priority" initiative. In Alaska, an initiative to regulate and legalize marijuana possession by adults is on the ballot, and in Nevada, organizers of that state's high-rolling regulation initiative are on tenterhooks waiting to see if they have enough valid signatures.

In Oakland, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters certified on June 28 the 20,000 valid signatures needed for the Oakland Cannabis Initiative ( to go on the November 2 ballot. The Oakland initiative is a two-parter: One section would direct the city to support changes in public policy that move toward a regulated marijuana market while the second section would direct the city to make the enforcement of marijuana laws the lowest law enforcement priority.

According to campaign organizer the Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance, the initiative would:

  • Establish a system to license, tax and regulate cannabis for adult use as soon as possible consistent with California law, with regulations to prevent access by minors, require good business practices and health and safety standards, prohibit sales near schools, limit public advertising, and license on-site consumption.
  • Make investigation, arrest, prosecution and imprisonment for private, adult cannabis offenses lowest law enforcement priority, while continuing to enforce violations involving distribution to children, street sales and use, operation of motor vehicles, etc.
  • Create a community oversight committee to monitor implementation of the ordinance and to oversee disbursement of funds raised through cannabis fees and taxes to ensure that they are being spent properly.
  • Lobby the state and federal government for changes in law to allow Oakland and other communities to tax and license cannabis.
In Arkansas four days later, proponents of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act turned in some 67,000 signatures to qualify that voter initiative for the November ballot. But with the number of required valid signatures set at 64,456, the margin for error is razor-thin. Still, according to Arkansas law, if some signatures are invalidated, the petitioning group is allowed to submit more signatures to clear the hurdle. Chloe Crater, a spokesperson for the Arkansas Alliance for Medical Marijuana (, told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that the group would continue canvassing signatures for the next few weeks just in case.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act would allow patients with cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, and other serious diseases to use marijuana upon a doctor's recommendation. The act would create a registry system where patients are their caregivers are issued cards allowing them to grow and possess limited amounts of marijuana for medical use.

According to the language of the act, patients and designated caregivers "shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege... for possessing, acquiring, cultivating, or transporting up to one ounce of usable marijuana and six marijuana plants."

In Arkansas, an organized opposition has begun to form, according to the Democrat Gazette. Larry Page, the executive director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council (, which offers "Biblical perspectives" on issues such as abortion, alcohol, gambling, homosexuality, and pornography, attacked the initiative for being funded by Marijuana Policy Project bankroller Peter Lewis, whom the Arkansas Alliance readily admits kicked in $366,000 for the effort.

Page announced this week that he was forming a ballot committee, the Coalition Against Legalized Marijuana, to oppose the initiative. Forming such a committee and filing papers with the state Ethics Commission allows Page to raise and spend money to defeat the measure.

The sailing appears a little smoother in Oregon, where organizers of OMMA2, the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act II ( piled on with signatures. The measure needs 75,360 valid signatures to make the November ballot. Organizers submitted more than 95,000 signatures in May, but went back to the hustings after some were deemed invalid. Just to be safe, they handed in another 28,000 signatures on July 2, virtually ensuring that Oregon voters will have a chance to expand and deepen the medical marijuana initiative they approved in 1999.

Oregon currently has about 9,000 medical marijuana patients registered under the state's existing program, but OMMA2 would not only lower fees and loosen restrictions in various ways, it would also direct the Oregon Department of Health to set up a system of regulated medical marijuana dispensaries. Among its other features, it would:

  • Lower the annual $150 application fee to $20.
  • Include nurse practitioners and naturopaths in the definition of "attending physician." (In Oregon, both are currently allowed to prescribe the same drugs as MDs, including morphine.)
  • Increase the amount of cannabis patients can grow and keep, to 10 plants and as much as six pounds, eliminating the distinction between mature and immature plants. Seedlings and cuttings would no longer be counted as plants.
  • Allow physicians to recommend cannabis for any illness or condition they think appropriate.
  • Allow caregivers to charge for their labor and to grow for more than one patient at one location.
  • Require Oregon to honor other states' medical marijuana laws and not prosecute out-of-state patients.
  • Prohibit employers from firing employees merely for being registered medical marijuana patients.
And so the November election picture for drug policy initiatives begins to come clear. Medical marijuana and "lowest priority" initiatives continue to be popular, but the Alaska and, one hopes, the Nevada "regulation" initiatives have the potential to really break new ground. As for any other drug policy initiatives, there are no signs of life this year.

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Issue #345, 7/9/04 Editorial: Time for Congress to Get Real | In the Wake of Blakely: Federal Sentencing Chaos as Defense Attorneys, Prosecutors, Lawmakers Ponder How to Respond | House Votes Down Medical Marijuana Bill -- Election Year Politics, Organized Opposition Cited | International AIDS Conference Puts Focus on Thai War on Drugs | Making it Official: More Initiatives Move Toward November Ballot | ALERT: "Thank or Spank" Your Congressman for This Week's Medical Marijuana Vote | Newsbrief: Rep. Ron Paul Brings Pain Doctor Prosecution Issue to House | Newsbrief: US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Rejects DEA Motion for New Hemp Hearing | Newsbrief: Kansas Supreme Court Says Cut Methamphetamine Sentences | Newsbrief: Tommy Chong Walks Out of Prison | Newsbrief: Iranians Protest US, UK Blind Eye to Afghan Opium Crop | Newsbrief: United Arab Emirates Ponders First Step Toward Harm Reduction | Newsbrief: Head of National Drug Intelligence Center Fired | Newsbrief: Prohibition as a Marketing Tool -- Camel Ad Campaign Touts "Forbidden Fruit" Appeal | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: California Prisons "Dysfunctional," State Report Concludes | Movie Opening: Maria Full of Grace | Media Scan: New CSDP Ad -- Richard Paey and Rush Limbaugh | This Week in History | Psilocybin Cancer Research Study Still Seeking Participants | The Reformer's Calendar

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