Skip to main content

Initiative Watch

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #756)

We're getting down to the final days, and the action around drug reform initiatives is fierce. Let's get to it:


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.


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.


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."


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."


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."


See our feature article about the Montana medical marijuana initiative this week here.


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.


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'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.)

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.


Denise (not verified)

I think they should legalize it in all states, it isn't fair that only few states have it for pain patients like me.  Wish I wouldn't have to move to relieve my pain....This Ohio embarrasses me over and over.....we got the required signatures and still have to wait probably another 4 years, that would be great if I'm still alive....  Wish I was as rich as the people that can get meds are... Not me, screwed up BY A DOCTOR, THAT SAID THAT WAS MY PROBLEM!!!! But wouldn't take the time and other tests that showed it wasn't!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wed, 10/24/2012 - 9:53pm Permalink
drmaddogs (not verified)

"drug reform initiatives", better happen now as it will be impossible next year. The coming Years will make J. Edgar Hoovers reign of use of private info to influence policy pale in comparison. Buy stock in the Drone mfg.s and low cost IT ventures that were threatened by open source.

I know it sounds alarming, but no State official will so much as whisper against Central Govt. policy by the time the 2016 election cycle happens. Big brother/Skynet is coming online(fully) in Utah. And there will be no secrets, no defense against pressures to toe the line as far as the representatives.. or citizens are concerned.  

Thu, 10/25/2012 - 12:31pm Permalink
Jillian Galloway (not verified)


Regarding Deputy Attorney General James Cole and all those like him who are ready to fight the "dangers" from legalizing marijuana without first asking themselves if these "dangers" are real: Paranoid old men keep marijuana illegal and make our children LESS safe.
Thu, 10/25/2012 - 12:40pm Permalink
drmaddogs (not verified)

In reply to by Jillian Galloway (not verified)

May I also interpret this " "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. (voters don't count).

"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.(they will decide what is in the voters best interest)

It has come to pass, the govt. does not represent the people.


Thu, 10/25/2012 - 1:02pm Permalink
Jeff Brown (not verified)

It is obvious that the feds have marijuana in the  wrong schedule. Most dangerous without medical use. It should be removed from schedule I and descheduled completely. A schedule I substance has no medical use in the United States. It clearly has medical use as 17 states say it does. These state governments should be demanding that the feds no longer enforce federal schedule I. Since they are not doing that the residents of those states should be suing their own states to that effect. And if the state has not removed it  from their   own schedule I they should do so right away.

Thu, 10/25/2012 - 1:28pm Permalink
Nemo (not verified)

Obama has pretty much lost the true progressive activist (aka from the point of his supporters, the 'radicals')  vote with his chuckling, deprecating responses to all the Town Meetings where cannabis law reform was the NUMBER ONE SUBJECT. His DoJ sired assaults on the dispensaries made it clear that that dismissive attitude originates from arrogance and contempt for them.

And Obama's supporters cannot frighten drug law reformers with the Bag, Bad Romneymonster crushing what's left of non-user's civil liberties , as our civil liberties have been savaged for the past 40 EFFIN" YEARS REGARDLESS OF WHO'S IN POWER.

We've been in the hurt locker all that time while our fellow citizens were oblivious to our cries and warnings, and they even further voted to curtail our freedoms (and, in blissful ignorance and supreme irony, theirs) by installing DrugWarrior ideologues as their Representatives and Senators, who produced ever more Draconian laws. They'd only be getting a  taste of the foul medicine we've had mercilessly rammed down our throats, all that time.

And, at the risk of being accused of engaging in schadenfreude, maybe that's just what's needed. Let the rest of the country get a taste of what they gave us, and maybe they'll understand that to ostracize and marginalize any one group within society, placing their rights on the chopping block, officially, is to invite the same treatment eventually being applied to them  - like the Occupy movement has received at the hands of the police . Treatment like wrong-house drug raids in which innocents are slaughtered by adrenaline-tripping DrugWarriors.

So, I sincerely hope for the sake of the Democratic Party's future (if any) that they realize they may have lost the election because of their damnable  condescending attitude towards those they needed the most. And that they'll realize what a huge voting bloc cannabis users comprise, scores of millions, crossing nearly every demographic...and act accordingly.

Thu, 10/25/2012 - 9:12pm Permalink

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.