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November 6: An Election to Stop the Drug War [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #757)

We are now only five days away from Election Day, and it's starting to look very much like at least one state will vote to legalize marijuana, possibly two, and, if the gods are really smiling down, three. It's also looking like there will soon be at least one more medical marijuana state, and like California will finally reform its three strikes sentencing law.

Amendment 64 billboard (
There are also local initiatives on the ballot in California, Massachusetts, and Michigan, including a Detroit initiative that would legalize the possession of up to an ounce at home by adults. And there are races for elected office that merit watching, the most interesting of which is probably former El Paso city councilmember and legalization supporter Beto O'Rourke, who is running for Congress. O'Rourke already knocked off Democratic incumbent drug warrior Sylvestre Reyes in the primary and appears ready to cruise to victory Tuesday.

The Chronicle will be in Denver election night for what we hope is the making of history. On Tuesday night and into the wee hours Wednesday morning, we will be posting relevant election results as fast as we can get our hands on them. In the meantime, here's what we'll be watching:

Marijuana Legalization Initiatives

Colorado -- Amendment 64 would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana or six marijuana plants, three of which could be mature. It would create a system of state-licensed cultivation, manufacturing, and testing facilities and state-licensed retail stores. Local governments would have the option of regulating or prohibiting such facilities. The amendment would also require the state legislature to enact legislation governing industrial hemp cultivation, processing, and sale, and to create an excise tax on wholesale marijuana sales. The first $40 million of that annual revenue would be dedicated to building public schools.

Amendment 64 has been hovering right around 50% in recent polls, but was at 53% with only 5% undecided in the most recent poll. The final push is on. The Chronicle will be reporting from Denver Tuesday night.

Oregon -- Measure 80, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA), would create an Oregon Cannabis Commission to regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana, but not industrial hemp, which would be allowed, but not regulated by the commission. The commission would grant licenses to cultivate marijuana for sale to it by "all qualified applicants" and would sell marijuana at state retail stores at prices it determines. Medical marijuana patients would have their medicine provided at cost. OCTA would supersede all state and local laws regarding marijuana, except for impaired driving laws, leaving personal possession and cultivation by adults unregulated.

Measure 80, which came late to the ballot and which has been chronically underfunded since making the ballot, has trailed consistently in the polls. The most recent poll had it losing 42% to 49%, but the campaign bravely says the polls are undercounting supporter and it can still win.

Washington -- Initiative 502 would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and over, but does not allow for personal cultivation, except by or for medical marijuana patients. It would license marijuana cultivation and retail and wholesale sales, with restrictions on advertising. Regulation would be the remit of the state liquor control board, which would have to come up with rules by December 2013. The measure would create a 25% excise tax on marijuana sales, with 40% of revenues dedicated to the general fund and 60% dedicated to substance abuse prevention, research, and healthcare. It would create a per se driving under the influence standard of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.

The I-502 campaign has raised more than $5 million and assembled an all-star cast of establishment law enforcement and political endorsers. Polling almost universally at more than 50%, this looks like an even better shot for legalization to pass than Colorado.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas -- The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act would allow patients suffering from specified diseases or medical conditions to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. It envisions a system of state-licensed nonprofit dispensaries, and would allow patients or their caregivers to grow their own only if they are not within five miles of a dispensary. In that case, patients could grow up to six flowering plants. Patients could possess up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana.

Known as Issue 5 on the ballot, the Arkansas initiative is the first one in the South, and if it wins, it would be the first southern state to embrace medical marijuana. But the most recent polls have rising opposition. Issue 5 was in a virtual dead heat with a 47% to 46% lead in late July, but last week, the same pollster had it trailing 38% to 54%.

Massachusetts -- Question 3 would allow people suffering from a debilitating medical condition to use medical marijuana upon the recommendation of a doctor with whom they have a bona fide relationship. Patients could possess up to a 60-day supply -- what constitutes that supply will be determined by the Department of Health. The initiative would also set up a system of nonprofit medical marijuana cultivation and distribution centers.

While vocal opposition has arisen in the final weeks of the campaign, Question 3 has enjoyed a commanding lead throughout and appears well-placed to join the ranks of Northeastern medical marijuana states on Tuesday.

Montana -- Initiative Referendum 124 would undo the gutting of the state's medical marijuana program through the passage last year of Senate Bill 423. That bill replaced the voter-approved medical marijuana program, which allowed for dispensary sales, with a new scheme that limited providers to serving only three patients, prohibited providers from accepting anything of value in exchange for products or services, granted local governments the power to regulate providers, tightened standards for demonstrating chronic pain, and demanded reviews of doctors who certified more than 25 patients in a one-year period.

The campaigners behind IR-124 are in the unique position of hoping it loses. That's because a "yes" vote endorses the legislature's gutting of the state's medical marijuana law last year, while a "no" vote rejects it and restores the voter-approved 2004 law. Polling has been scarce, but one recent poll had IR-124 losing (and more access to medical marijuana winning) with 44% of the vote.


California -- Proposition 36 would reform the state's three strikes law, which allows a life sentence for a third felony conviction. The measure would allow life sentences only if the new felony conviction is "serious or violent," authorize re-sentencing for lifers if their third conviction was not "serious or violent" and if a judge determines their release would not pose an unreasonable risk to public safety, allow life sentences if the third conviction was for "certain non-serious, non-violent sex or drug offenses or involved firearm possession," and keep the life sentence for felons whose previous convictions were for rape, murder, or child molestation. If approved by voters, some 3,000 three strikes lifers could seek reductions.

This stealth initiative has gone almost unnoticed amidst a plethora of other state-level initiatives, but appears poised to win. Of four recent polls, three had it at 63% or higher, while the only poll in which it wasn't over 50% had it leading 44% to 22%, with a huge 34% undecided.

Local Initiatives

California -- A number of towns, mostly in the San Diego area, will vote on local initiatives to allow medical marijuana dispensaries. Those include Del Mar, Imperial Beach, Lemon Grove, and Solana Beach, as well as Palo Alto. The town of Dunsmuir will vote on whether to loosen cultivation regulations.

Colorado -- Fort Collins will be voting on whether to overturn the ban on dispensaries voted in last November, and Berthoud will be voting on whether to allow dispensaries.

Massachusetts -- In a continuation of work done in the past six election cycles, voters in a number of legislative districts will be asked a non-binding public policy question. In the First Essex and Middlesex Senate District, the Eighth Essex House District, and the Twenty-Second Essex House District voters will be asked whether they support repeal of the "federal prohibition of marijuana, as the 21st Amendment repealed national prohibition of alcohol, so that states may regulate it as they choose?" Voters in the Second Middlesex Senate District, the Middlesex and Suffolk Senate District, and the Second Berkshire House District will answer a similar question.

Michigan -- Voters in Detroit and Flint will vote on marijuana legalization initiatives, voters in Grand Rapids will vote on decriminalization, Kalamazoo will vote on an initiative to allow dispensaries, and Ypsilanti will vote on a lowest law enforcement priority initiative.

Drug Policy and the Presidential Election

Drug policy has pretty much been a non-issue in the presidential campaign. The one place where marijuana policy positions could influence the statewide electoral outcome is Colorado. Marijuana is a big issue in the state, not only because Amendment 64 is on the ballot, but also because of the ongoing war of attrition waged against dispensaries there by the DEA and the US Attorney. (The Colorado Patient Voters Project tracks federal activity against medical marijuana in the state, as does our own Medical Marijuana Update series, accessible with other relevant reporting in our medical marijuana archive section.)

And it's a tight race where one third party candidate in particular, Gary Johnson, is making a strong run and exploiting his popular legalization position on marijuana. While the Real Clear Politics average of Colorado polls has Obama up 48.2% to Romney's 47.7%, the race tightens up when Johnson is included in the polls, even though who he hurts more varies from poll to poll.

If Obama loses Colorado, be prepared for the argument that he did so at least in part because of his poor positions on marijuana.

(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.


jway (not verified)


We keep hearing about "legalizing marijuana for recreational use", but what it really appears to be is an attempt to legalize marijuana as a far safer alternative to alcohol. 
According to the CDC, alcohol kills 80,000 people every year in the U.S. while marijuana kills none, and marijuana's addiction potential is only about that of coffee. 
Since marijuana is far safer and far less addictive than alcohol, we could GREATLY reduce the amount of harm and addiction in society by giving people the right to switch from the more harmful drug, alcohol, to the less harmful drug, marijuana. 
Paranoid old men in the federal government keep marijuana illegal and make your children LESS safe.
Thu, 11/01/2012 - 2:26pm Permalink
Tony Messina (not verified)

The average citizen lacks the ability to reason properly on many things and pot use is just one of them. Our sheltered christian community will NEVER accept the casual use of pot and that problem will never change. So do just as your doing now and smoke it anyway, just don't get caught.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 7:01pm Permalink
Uncle Bob (not verified)

In reply to by Tony Messina (not verified)

#1. Never say Never.
When I first started coming to this site, I shared a negative attitude like yours.  I was very pessimistic and skeptical that any real change would occur in my lifetime.  But when you look at the facts you realize that win or lose: these are some close polls.  You can't claim it's a fringe issue when Gallup pulling puts support for legalization at either just under or just over 50% consistently over the last two or three years.  People are waking up, period.  And you cannot deny this large a demographic of people for too long eventually they WILL get their own way, and it starts right here.

#2. Don't get complacent.
You say "ah just keep doing it illegally, nothing will ever change."  What you're forgetting about is not everyone who wants legalization is a user... take me for example.  Due to my profession, I CANNOT smoke... and I have respected that without exception... but I dream that one day when I either retire or change professions, that I will be able to smoke in peace at home not hurting anyone.. and NOT be a criminal for doing so.

At this point, in this Information Age of technology, when we have all these facts at our fingertips, it's harder and harder to tell the lies and make people truly believe in bogus propaganda.

Mark my words: my mind has been changed.  I honestly believe that Prohibition is NOT here to stay, it is a GENERATIONAL thing.  The generation that enacted prohibition, and the one who continues to support it, which is still in power to this day, they will not likely change their minds.

Those generations that have come since.. these are the ones that are reflected in Gallup polling and in the polls in these states where legalization votes tend closer to the 50% mark.. just look 30 years ago it would be like 80% vs 20%.  Times most certainly change and I think we're all about to see the ball start rolling, start seeing TRUE progress after all these years, and that all starts November 6th.

At one point I dreaded Romeny winning the office, but at this point, i think this whole thing is too big with too much momentum behind it for any one man to stop at this point.  The will of the people will ultimitaely prevail.  We deserve a CHANCE at the very least.. and I think America is great enough a nation, that we can weather legalizaed Marijuana.. it would take more than that to destroy this nation, and if all the research and signs are to be believed a great deal of people think it would instead IMPROVE our society by stopping the needless jailing of MILLIONS of non-voilent drug offendors, and putting money BACK in the coffers where they can help improve the social structure.



Thu, 11/01/2012 - 10:12pm Permalink
Kemp Woods (not verified)

In reply to by Uncle Bob (not verified)

Love your comments and they actually encouraged me--a grizzled and weary historian of the mass insanity known as the 110 year drug war.  I'm very well read in all matters drug war and your comments are very warming to me. Thanks again. 

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 2:02am Permalink
Patti Jo Edwards (not verified)

There are so many wars, it is amazing how the status quo can keep inventing new ones. This war is on our own people and must stop. Gary Johnson has it right and he has our votes. He will stop all the wars and that includes the prohibition of pot. Vote for Gary to end the wars.
Fri, 11/02/2012 - 5:19am Permalink
CJ (not verified)

this is pathetic man. seriously. marijuana this, marijuana that. this site is supposed to be about the drug war. did you think i left or something? no. this site is half as busy as it was a year ago, thats all. there are other sites that have thankfully, maybe (though im not egotisticle enough to think so) my constant badgering about the pot bias had something to do with it, but other sites, a year ago, just as ridiculous with their naming themselves a drug war site but 100% not 99% but 100% marijuana legalization sites. those sites arent like that anymore and i wont be childish to put them up here and try to direct traffic to someone else. That's not my point. thats not my goal in pointing out this unfair bias of pot. The point is to get the pot bias to stop. To get this pot elitism in the circle of drug legalization to end. Yes, i am a heroin purveyor, an opiate enthusiast if you will. a homeless junkie of many years if you must, fine, thats fine i dont care if you judge me because believe me i definitely judge pot smokers and their culture, but nevertheless i try to be civil, and i try to unite with them in OUR cause. But when I see a list of important things come out on a site that claims to be about the DRUG war not the POT QUESTION but the DRUG WAR well, it is pretty upsetting from a drug reformist's perspective. It is the typical pot elitism, thinking pot is the only drug in the world or pot is the only drug that "real people" do and "other drugs" are bad and wrong and kill and bla bla bla bla bla. No sorry, its just not true. Sorry to be a bummer, sorry to be a downer dude sorry not to be passing around the dank nug buddy i am passin around the overused cut you like a butter knife syringe thats what im passing around and since we're all in the same boat no matter what anybody thinks ( right now anyway ) youre gonna have to like it. Heroin and Marijuana are classified the same - we all know the classifications are stupid. Yep. But sorry, the classifications are something we're fighting against. The classifications are apart of what  we oppose, they create major problems for us. These classifications say that you pot smokers and us dope shooters are one in the same. GREAT - let's work together so we can do what we want like the adults we are and homeless junkies won't be getting hep c HIV etc. etc. and having their lives destroyed because the price of 10 bags is 100-150 bucks, a bag, (if you have someone selling you by the bag) is around 10 bucks. and where lots need multiple wops (10 bags) a day just to ward off the sickness, well, your talking about the avg person who does dope needing almost 1k a day. A THOUSAND BUCKS a DAY! lol. thanks prohibition! the fact of the matter is, US medical ideas about the tolerance of opiates is absolutely WRONG. sorry to burst the proverbial bubble of the most pathetic people on the planet, those subscribers to NA/AA theory but "youll never get enough, youll always need more" is not true. Just go look up the soldier's disease and find out the number 1 treatment for it. You see there is a limit as anybody on PROPER opiate maintenance can attest AND I SAID OPIATE not OPIOD. As in ROXI, OXY, DILLAUDID, VICODIN etc. That's OPIATE maintenance. METHADOSE METHADONE SUBOXONE (ANY BUPERENORPHINE) NALTROXENE that would be OPIOD. So no not OPIOD but OPIATE maintenance as in the junkies in Vancouver who get nice on dillaudid or heroin everyday at a gov't clinic the same for people doing proper MORPHINE on dr's prescriptions in UK and or using heroin LEGALLY. THOSE folks get to a dose and they dont need anymore so that stupid wives tale is just that - stupid. Not true.


In a legalized world, a bag of dope would be impossible to get, they'd probably sell it BY the wop and the wop would cost in a legal world what a bag cost in a prohibition world - give or take. Instead of paying 700 dollars a DAY just to not get dope sick (and youve gotta hustle the streets, conning people or stealing everything and anything you can to get that kind of money evry day) you'll be paying 70 bucks. A FAR FAR more manageable amount of money. 70 bucks 700 bags of dope. I really doubt that it'd be measured by or called bags of dope at that point. LOL.


The bottom line is, pot isn't the only drug in the world. An important list that is nothing but pot pot pot pot pot and pot related stuff is totally unacceptable. you might as well just pretend pot is legal and get rid of this site and just go continue to smoke because that's what youd do when its legal anyway, you wont be here updating public opinion on crystal meth legalization in Arkansas in a small district or a march on the right for MDMA for medical reasons for women suffering post traumatic stress in some suburban housewife commune. Might as well just pretend pot is legal and go away, or, better yet, change the name to stop the pot war, you can even sound like some trendy rapper with a name like that stop the pot yo yo yo - stopthepotwar and jeez id never bother anybody over there. id have no reason to be there and youd be perfectly right to be talking about nothing but pot 24/7

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 7:43am Permalink
Mark Mitcham (not verified)

In reply to by CJ (not verified)

I gotta jump in here.

I'm an alcoholic.  What you call a "recovering alcoholic."

So, Damn right, pot isn't the only drug!


But pot is the one drug that proves, conclusively, that the Drug Warriors are frauds.

This is because pot, unlike just about any other drug you can name, is safe.

Very, very, very safe.  You can overdose (not drown, overdose) on water, but not on

pot.  I damn near died from alcohol, but in society's eyes, it's good, clean fun.

Pot will open one's eyes to the lies.


So, we start with pot.  Cuts through all the crap about protecting the public.

Ain't judging you!

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 5:49pm Permalink
Tamara Diane Sanford (not verified)

Which of President Obama or Mitt Romney do y'all think would be more likely to help with this issue and the failed war on drugs and mass incarceration. Who would help more on these 3 issue?  

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 1:31pm Permalink
saynotohypocrisy (not verified)

I certainly agree with you on the positive value of cannabis, but I think that argument is more likely to turn off people who don't like weed but grudgingly agree that regulating it is better than not, than it is to convince anyone who is undecided. I believe intensely that having alcohol legal, and cannabis forbidden, is a moral obscenity, but I don't expect the legalization campaigns to focus on that any more than on the positive side of cannabis use. The argument that it is much safer that alcohol is implicitly pro-weed, and it also puts the focus on something with very wide appeal, reducing violence. As do arguments about helping government raise funds from a reasonable tax, weakening gangs, and getting distribution out of the hands of people willing to sell to kids.

Sat, 11/03/2012 - 2:36pm Permalink
saynotohypocrisy (not verified)

Alcohol kills constantly, and it's not clear to me that cannabis impairment has gotten anyone killed this year in this country. That's all anyone should need to know to equalize the status of alcohol and marijuana, but there's also the matter of fetal alcohol syndrome, and alcohol being the drug of choice of pedophile perverts. Cannabis prohibition [trying to force people to use alcohol] is about protecting the children? Get fucking real!!!

 I'm talking to you, Colorado Educational Association and Colorado Pediatricians. I'm so mad at the Colorado teachers union, I'm ready to support random drug piss testing of Colorado teachers, and pinching their salaries and benefits. Give those smucks a dose of their own medicine. 

Mon, 11/05/2012 - 2:23pm Permalink
Lex (not verified)

  I will guarantee you that when the other states legalize, our ZOG will commission Monsanto to engineer a strain of hemp to sterilize organic hemp. This is their crop to harvest tax free income, no one elses.

Wed, 11/07/2012 - 4:53pm Permalink

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