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Initiative Watch

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #755)

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:


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."


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.


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


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."


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


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.


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.


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.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Paul Pot (not verified)

Of course it would be the synthetic drug pushers in Arkansas who want natural healing herbs to remain safely out of the reach of the sick and dying. Access to healing herbs from the garden would negatively affect the profit margin, the bottom line, dividends, all the important things in life.

Thu, 10/18/2012 - 2:52am Permalink
Mark Mitcham (not verified)

In reply to by Paul Pot (not verified)

Advertisers tell us that corporations are there to serve the needs of the public, but the CEO's will tell you flat out: "Hey!  We're here for Profit!  Are you kidding?  That's my job!"  But here's the problem: if you're not there to serve the public, it is so much EASIER to EXTORT a revenue stream, rather than earn it the old-fashioned way.  Find a need, and then find a way to stand between people and that need, and you can charge whatever you want.  They hate marijuana, because Nature gives it to us for free, and corporations hate "free"!  No way to extort it.  So, they WAR.

(My two cents!  Peace Ya'll.)

Thu, 10/18/2012 - 5:34pm Permalink
Mike Dar (not verified)

"legalizing marijuana threatens.." every Corporation involved in the Drug War, maker of fertilizers, makers of psychotherapeutic, painkilling and cancer treating drugs, Makers of clothing(hemp last twice as long), Makers of animal feed(Hemp seed is better by a small percentage), Makers of paper(hemp lasts 2x as long), makers of chlorine for whitening(hemp needs 1/2), Makers of pesticides(Hemp requires 1/2 the amount), Makers of Helicopters(the Drug War gives them away to small locals if the promise to use them 20% for 'Drug eradication'-Federally supported), Makers of derivatives(Wall Street affords 'washing'(B O of A and Wells Fargo fined 1 billion in the last 5 years), Makers of 'For Profit' prisons, bond holders, bailsmen, lawyers and supporting industries for 're-education' of said Mj use, Makers of international policy and trade agreements(who gets what depends in part on 'Drug War' compliance.... or the lack thereof), Makers of patents of corn and soy, Monsanto at the top of the list(Again, hemp seed is slightly better), Makers of forestry products(Hemp provides 4x as much fiber per acre), Makers of Alcohol(none of which wish to see an openly competing product)....

Hmmm, seems having a illegal position on MJ benefits a tremendous number of public and private corporations. Since Capitalism in America is run by Corporatism which elects our government representatives... I think I see who "legalizing marijuana threatens.."  in the Drug Warin the Drug War

Fri, 10/19/2012 - 12:39pm Permalink

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