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Drug Policy in the 2012 Elections I: The Initiatives [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #749)

The Labor Day weekend has passed, summer is behind us, and the November elections are just two months away. When it comes to drug policy and the 2012 elections, there is plenty on the table. This week, we're going to give you an overview all the drug-related campaigns (and we'll be counting on readers to let us know if we've missed anything), followed by some general discussion about the prospects for the fall and the state of the drug reform movement this election season.

Next week, we'll look at election races of interest, from the local races to the presidency, and In the weeks between now and election day, we will be doing in-depth reports on all the statewide initiative campaigns, as well as devoting as much attention as we can to some key local races and initiative campaigns.

Here's what we've got going for November 2012:

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.

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. The OCTA would supersede all state and local laws regarding marijuana, except for impaired driving laws, leaving personal possession and cultivation by adults unregulated.

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.

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.

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.

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.

North Dakota -- the medical marijuana initiative is not yet a done deal as we go to press. [Update: North Dakota officials announced Thursday that the measure has failed to make the ballot after several university student signature gatherers were caught faking signatures.] Proponents needed 13,500 valid signatures and handed in more than 20,000 on August 7. State officials had 30 days from then to validate signatures. Patients could possess up to 2 ½ ounces of usable marijuana and grow up to 12 plants in an enclosed space. Caregivers could grow for one or more patients, provided they grew no more than 30 plants. The state would regulate medical dispensaries and the marijuana cultivated for them.


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.

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.

Washington -- Voters in six cities -- Bellingham, Bremerton, Everett, Kent, Olympia, and Spokane -- will vote on initiatives to make marijuana the lowest law enforcement priority and prohibit local officials from cooperating with federal marijuana law enforcement activities.

The lineup of state and local initiatives has some drug reform movement spokespeople feeling pretty good.

"I think at least one state will make marijuana legal for adults this election cycle," said Marijuana Policy Project communications director Morgan Fox. "The fact that we're discussing so many initiatives is a sign of progress. As things progress and people get increasingly sick of marijuana prohibition, we will see more and more states considering this every election cycle, and it will become more of an issue for candidates," he added.

"Politicians are starting to realize they can use this to their advantage and ignore at their peril," said Fox. "Many of them, though, don't realize how much of an effect it can have on their elections -- just ask the former US Attorney in Oregon, Dwight Holton. He didn't think his stance against medical marijuana would cost him the primary, but it did."

"I sincerely hope that one of these passes and raises the debate to whole new level, and maybe takes some of the heat off of California," said Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML. "These are states when you can have a good campaign for a reasonable amount of money that the drug reform movement can put up. A million dollars or two doesn't get you very far in California."

But at least one of those legalization initiatives needs to win this year, he said. "If pot gets wiped out in the elections, it's going to be tougher to win down the road."

"The sheer number of initiatives that are on the ballot and viable this cycle shows the momentum that the movement toward legalizing marijuana has," said Tamar Todd, assistant director for national policy at the Drug Policy Alliance. "That momentum is also reflected in other ways -- in terms of the dialog we're hearing, the high support for legalization across the board, the rejection of the drug war polices of the past," she said.

"When you look in certain areas, such as the Northeast and the West, the numbers are even higher," Todd continued. "In 2010, we had a legalization initiative in California; this year we have them in three states, plus three or four medical marijuana initiatives. The number and their viability represent a real shift taking place in public opinion.  The end result, no matter what happens this election cycle, is that in two years and every two years, the number and viability will continue to increase until there is actually sufficient change happening at the state level to start pushing the federal government to change its policies."

The initiatives are on the ballot. Now, they need to win.

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.


patent lawyer (not verified)

This is a great idea thanks for doing it. It would be nice eventually as time gets closer to elections to know what polls are saying, whose endorsing the initiatives and who is opposing them. This will help activists focus efforts where they are needed.

Thu, 09/06/2012 - 1:53pm Permalink
Jeff Brown (not verified)

Prohibition of the most useful plant on the planet is evil and has ruined or cost thousands if not millions of lives. Growing up I was taught that we were a free country. The people are waking up. Continue to educate yourselves and your friends and neighbors and we will prevail.

Thu, 09/06/2012 - 4:59pm Permalink
CJ (not verified)

thats all that this talked about. theres more to drugs and the drug war and drug policy than cannabis. namely the far greater drug, heroin and its opiate brothers sisters cousins but not its red headed step sibling (adopted no less!) codeine, yeah we can skip that lame one. but seriously, cmon first of all content has seem to have dipped in general (not quality, quantity tho quality wise ive been happy with the recent Denmark Heroin Pill nod albeit short and brief - no pun intended with the word nod, heh heh heh) but the election is important for reformers. this site has been way too quiet i think but this feature article here has NOTHING but marijuana/medical marijuana. hey if its the way it is then change the name to stop the pot war, seriously, i wont ever bother to comment or check anything out again. no worries.

Fri, 09/07/2012 - 5:53am Permalink
saynotohypocrisy (not verified)

In reply to by CJ (not verified)

That's the main reason every ballot initiative this year only has to do with weed. Do you really think a referendum on whether to legalize anything else would come anywhere near passing? Unlike Europe, we don't even have a single city that would be interested in a maintenance program, where people addicted to heroin, cocaine etc could get their drug in a safe environment at a non-black market price. The appeal to cities would be mainly in the reduced crime committed by addicts needing to pay black market prices, and reduced incarceration + related costs.

But as far as I know not a city is interested, which leads me to think we are probably a long way away from having a state legalize anything but weed. Maybe when more people see how badly them were bamboozled about weed, they will start asking if the same thing is going on with other illegal substances.

Hope you see some more articles of interest here soon, once the election is over the focus will probably change a little.

Fri, 09/14/2012 - 11:24am Permalink
JN (not verified)

Why is our tax dollars and the time of our local law enforcement being spent on arresting people for using cannabis? I gave eighty years of service to my country and I would like to think I served so that each individual person in this country would have the liberty to make the choice of using cannabis or not using it with out fear of taking a trip to the local jail and wasting the time of our officers in uniform. Lets be real, the money that is produced by the consumers are going mostly into the pockets of the cartels in Mexico, why not bring that money into our economic system and let it be used in a productive way for the citizens of this nation?

Fri, 09/07/2012 - 8:04pm Permalink

Alright this is kind of messed up.  How can you create a law that authorizes the Director of The Office of National Drug Control Policy to lie without any repercussions?  Well I found this little document on the page:

SEC.704 Line 12 is where you want to go.

This is why all of those .gov websites that are related to drugs, or drug policy, have so much misinformation, unproven  assertions, straight lies.  What makes this worse is that the majority of people who want to fight with cannabis users get there facts from these corrupted sources.  We need to bring Truth, scientific facts, showing ALL the information we know about a Schedule 1 controlled substance such as cannabis.  I don't know if I will be able to contain myself if I hear some poor unsuspecting person tell me that "Cannabis is a gateway drug"

So to help decrease the probability of myself losing control from another persons misinfo obtained from NIDA, fox news, abc, cbs, or whatever.  Everything points to the "Drug Czar" being strapped down because he is mandated to oppose legalization of Cannabis.  Anyways, Please sign this petition -.>

Its to amend that line so we can hold the director accountable for what is being presented to the public.

Pass it on! We need as many signatures as we can get so far.  I just started this yesterday early morning.

---------------------------------> <----------------------------------

If we can get this changed, I believe then we could finally get into the debate regarding cannabis being moved down to schedule 2. Then it will finally be able to go through FDA for approval in creating medicines.  Thank you!

Sat, 09/08/2012 - 4:43am Permalink

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