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A Disappointing Night for Reform

The three most important drug reform initiatives have failed today. Question 7 to legalize marijuana in Nevada lost 56-44. Amendment 44 to legalize marijuana in Colorado lost 60-40. And Initiative 4 to protect medical marijuana patients in South Dakota lost 53-47.

I was optimistic, particularly about South Dakota, but overall, tonight’s outcome is more disappointing than surprising. Legalizing marijuana by popular vote is a huge challenge, and while it hurts to lose, these are necessary steps in order to move the discussion forward.

And it’s exciting to see so many votes for reform. Surely, marijuana prohibition is the only criminal law that’s opposed by such a large segment of the population. Even in defeat, the results in Nevada and Colorado show that an eventual victory on this issue is clearly within striking distance.

Onward.


Localização: 
United States

Looking Bad for the Statewide Marijuana Initiatives

It's just after 1AM Eastern time, and it looks like the Colorado, Nevada, and South Dakota marijuana initiatives are all headed for defeat. It ain't over 'til it's over, of course, but it's almost over. The South Dakota medical marijuana initiative is losing by 52% to 48% with more than two-thirds of the votes counted. The margin has been similar all night long. There's a slim chance late votes from Rapid City could switch the result, but we are rapidly approaching the point where it becomes mathematically impossible. The Nevada "tax and regulate" initiative is losing by 56% to 44%. I can't tell from the Nevada secretary of state's web page what percentage of the vote has been counted, but it is substantial, and the numbers have been in this range all night. The Colorado legalization initiative is losing by 61% to 39% with 47% of the vote counted. Both CNN and the Rocky Mountain News have called this election already. If these results hold, that's a big disappointment, although not a big surprise. There are other drug policy-related issues and candidacies to report on, and if you don't see me blogging about them here this week, look for the full breakdown in the Chronicle on Friday.
Localização: 
United States

Big Loss for Ernest Istook

Rep. Earnest Istook (R-OK) went down hard tonight in the Oklahoma Governor’s race.

Istook was the author of the ridiculous "Istook Amendment" which banned transit authorities from selling ad space to drug reformers and was quickly shot down by a federal judge in a no-brainer first amendment ruling.

Istook vacated his seat in the House to run for Governor, so it looks like he’ll now have plenty of time on his hands to re-familiarize himself with the Bill of Rights.

(This blog post was published by StoptheDrugWar.org'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.)

 

Localização: 
United States

Last Minute Lies in Nevada and South Dakota

Opponents of MPP’s ballot initiatives have resorted to making stuff up out of thin air. Not that they were telling the truth before, but they’ve achieved a new level of dishonesty somehow.

In Nevada, the ironically-named Committee to Keep Nevada Respectable has produced a radio ad saying that the law will prevent workplace drug-testing. That’s a great idea for a law, but Question 7 doesn’t do anything like that.

Check out this lively debate between Neal Levine of the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana and Todd Raybuck of the Committee to Keep Nevada Respectable. When Levine points out that marijuana revenues currently support criminals, Todd Raybuck, a police officer, retorts that in his experience marijuana is usually exchanged casually between friends and family members, not dangerous criminals. Really, Todd? You’re making it sound like marijuana users are normal everyday people.

Meanwhile, in South Dakota, MPP’s medical marijuana initiative is being attacked with stone-age rhetoric courtesy of Save Our Society From Drugs.

This prohibitionists' radio ad — which is airing around the state — lies to voters, claiming, "Smoked marijuana is not medicine. In fact, every major medical association has rejected this notion." This is blatantly false: The American Nurses Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the National Academy of Sciences, and many others recognize marijuana's medical value.

I don’t know why they’re even bothering to lie about a medical marijuana initiative. The results are in on MMJ laws: they’re harmless. Beyond that, teenage use has gone down in every state that’s passed one. SOSFD should save their energy for when we come around trying to legalize crack, since they’re so sure that’s what we’ll be doing.

I’ve had friends tell me I’m crazy if I think marijuana will ever be legal in this country, but honestly I’m surprised that it hasn’t happened yet. I’m surprised that with so many problems here and abroad, we’re still finding resources to target healthy people who aren’t causing problems. I’m surprised that our opposition remains so confident that a massive permanent international war is by far the best option.

Clearly, the tiny fraction of human history during which drugs have been illegal has been remarkably tainted by unprecedented drug-related social problems, and it takes a great fool to call it a coincidence.

Tomorrow brings the possibility of unlikely but important victories, so with high-hopes and low-expectations I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Stay tuned.

Localização: 
United States

Let's Not Forget Massachusetts

In our list of drug policy-related ballot issues last Friday, we neglected to mention Massachusetts. Voters in one district there will be voting on whether to instruct their representative to favor marijuana decriminalization, while voters in two other districts will be voting on whether to instruct their representatives to support medical marijuana. These local questions continue a process that began with the 2000 elections and have so far resulted in more than 420,000 Bay State residents voting to support marijuana law reform. Here is the info on the Massachusetts races: Plymouth, Massachusetts: In the 1st and 12th Plymouth Representative Districts, voters will be voting to tell their representatives to support decriminalization: “Shall the state legislator from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would make the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana a civil violation, subject to a fine of no more than $100.00 and not subject to any criminal penalties?” Middlesex and Norfolk, Massachusetts: Voters in the 7th Norfolk Representative District and the 3rd Middlesex Senate District will be voting on whether to tell their representatives to support medical marijuana: “Shall the state legislator from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would allow seriously ill patients, with their doctor’s written recommendation, to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana for their personal medical use?”
Localização: 
MA
United States

Kelo TV Poll: Medical Marijuana [South Dakota, Losing 35% to 60%]

Localização: 
SD
United States
Publication/Source: 
KELO TV Sioux Falls
URL: 
http://www.keloland.com/News/NewsDetail6375.cfm?Id=0,52188

Federal Official Criticizes Medical Marijuana Issue

Localização: 
SD
United States
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.yankton.net/stories/110406/news_1580110406.shtml

Sobriety check: Amend. 44 step toward clear-headed drug policy (The Gazette, Colorado Springs)

Localização: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.gazette.com/display.php?id=1326088&secid=13

Medical Marijuana: Students lose shirts off their backs for Initiated Measure 4 (The Rapid City Journal)

Localização: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/articles/2006/11/03/news/top/news03.txt

Feature: Colorado and Nevada to Vote on Marijuana Legalization Measures Tuesday

With a measure to legalize the possession of up to one ounce of pot on the ballot in Colorado and a measure to allow the regulated sale of marijuana and the possession of up to an ounce in Nevada, Tuesday could be the first time voters in any American state have embraced an end to marijuana prohibition. At this late juncture, most polls are painting it as an uphill fight, though organizers have reasons why they believe the polls may be off. The odds are looking better in Nevada than Colorado.

The only state in which marijuana possession is legal is Alaska. There, it was the courts, not the voters, who made the decision.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/nevadayoutube.jpg
CRCM TV ad, posted to YouTube
Despite creative and energetic campaigns by the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana (CRCM) in Nevada and SAFER Colorado in the Rocky Mountain State, most recent polls show both measures losing, although the margin is much narrower in Nevada, and one Nevada poll showed the measure ahead.

In both states, however, organizers say the polls are undercounting support for legalization. In Nevada, spokesmen for the measure there told the Chronicle that the only poll that used the actual ballot language had the measure ahead by a margin of 49% to 43%. That contrasts with Nevada newspaper polls that showed the measure losing with between 37% and 41% of the vote.

"While I would say that it is unlikely the polling is that far off, we certainly expect greater support than what the polls are reporting," said SAFER Colorado's Steve Fox. "Many young people don't respond to polls or are not even reached by them because all they have are cell phones. While we can't claim that we're going to cruise to an easy victory," he told Drug War Chronicle, "other polls we have seen seem to indicate greater support than those media polls."

"The polls jibe," said CRCM campaign manager Neal Levine. "The Reno Gazette-Journal poll asked if people favored the legalization, use, possession, and transfer of marijuana, while our poll used the actual ballot language. The explanation of the difference lies in the wording of the question asked. The Review-Journal poll, while it shows us behind, shows a huge upward trend over their last poll. Their language wasn't as slanted, but it still didn't ask the question voters will be asked on the ballot. What is consistent is that the campaign is trending up," he told the Chronicle last month.

And it was still trending up, but also still trailing this week. "In a new Reno Gazette-Journal poll, we cut the gap by seven points," said campaign communications director Patrick Killen Thursday. "According to them, we're still behind 41% to 52%, but again, their question didn't address taxation and regulation or the many safeguards our measure has. Still, the good news is this shows the campaign is moving forward."

Both states have seen hard-hitting organized opposition campaigns led by establishment political figures, law enforcement, and the federal anti-drug bureaucracies. In Colorado, Denver DEA special agent in charge Jeffrey Sweetin has taken a lead position in opposing the measure, along with Gov. Bill Owens and Attorney General John Suthers. Owens and Suthers were among those who were surprised last Friday when nearly a hundred pro-legalization demonstrators showed up at their anti-legalization press conference.

In Nevada, CRCM has been busy challenging interference in the campaign by federal officials and Nevada elected officials. In mid-October, the group filed a lawsuit against Clark County and Las Vegas officials seeking an injunction to stop them from campaigning against the measure on the tax payers' dime. The following week, CRCM supporters confronted deputy federal drug czar Scott Burns, who flew in from Washington, DC, to oppose Question 7 at a small-town forum. "Czar, go home! Leave Nevada alone!" they chanted.

While CRCM is engaged in TV, radio, and web-based advertising, the lead opposition group, the ironically named Committee to Keep Nevada Respectable has limited itself to a late radio ad, which CRCM attacked Thursday as full of lies. "They say it would bar employers from doing drug testing, when the measure explicitly says they can," complained Killen. "It says we favor street use of drugs, which is simply wrong on two counts. First, this isn't about 'drugs;' this is about marijuana. Second, again, the language of Question 7 explicitly bars the public consumption of marijuana."

The ad wars may not matter that much in the end, said University of Nevada Las Vegas political science professor Ted G. Jelen. "The commercials are not very effective," he told the Chronicle. "People aren't paying that close attention. Also, I think this measure is a little bit complicated. Most people don't take these issues very seriously, so the message has to be simple. They keep talking about taxation and regulation, but it might be better if they just said we're going to treat it like booze."

Jelen pronounced Question 7's chances of passage as "unlikely," although he predicted it would get a respectable showing. Still, he said, given the national political landscape and scandal-driven, unexpectedly competitive gubernatorial and US House of Representatives races in Nevada, turn-out could be high -- and that could affect the outcome.

CRCM is counting on that. "We've got all kinds of volunteers, and now it's time to get people to the polls," said Killen. "We're counting on non-traditional voters -- young voters, new voters, disenchanted voters -- who aren't showing up on the radar. We're doing early voting through Friday, and then it's the final push toward Tuesday."

With both measures trailing in most polls, organizers are starting to take a longer view. "Certainly, the polls being released by the media indicate that we are far behind," said SAFER Colorado's Mason Tvert. "Whether that will be the case after actual voting takes place remains to be seen. But it is important to remember that this is just one step in a long battle to educate the public about the fact that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. Through the course of this campaign, our basic message has resonated across the state and in national publications like USA Today and the Washington Times. Despite the fact that we have spent less than $60,000 after the signature drive, we have generated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of earned media coverage. We have taken recreational marijuana policy reform from basically nowhere and have made it a major topic of discussion and debate in the state. This campaign is not the end of our efforts in Colorado. If we lose, we will continue to educate the citizens of the state until the time is right for another initiative."

There is now less than a week until the voters hit the voting booths. It is now looking uncertain, but not impossible, for 2006 to be the year voters said no to marijuana prohibition.

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