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Drug Reform and Drug Reformers in the 2006 Elections -- The List

In a national political season dominated by the war in Iraq and concerns about the direction in which the country is headed, drug policy issues have largely been ignored this year. Drug policy issues are on the ballot in several states and localities and drug reformers are running for statewide office in a handful of states. Here are the campaigns and races we will be watching and reporting on next week.


United States Congress: We are not singling out any races in this crucial, possible sea change, election year, and no single race has been distinguished for its drug policy implications. Should Democrats take control of one or both chambers of Congress, that could potentially have significant ramifications for the issue -- imagine Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) as head of the House Judiciary Committee instead of Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), for starters. Historically drug reformers have tended to find both major parties disappointing, however.

If you are interested in how your representative represents your views on drug policy issues, the Drug Policy Alliance has prepared a 2006 Drug Policy Reform Congressional Voter Guide, as have Marc Emery and Cannabis Culture.

Election Day approaching
Arizona: Proposition 301 would roll back a decade-only sentencing reform law as it applies to methamphetamine offenders. Under the sentencing reform, first- or second-time drug possession offenders cannot be sentenced to jail or prison -- only to probation. This legislature-sponsored initiative would allow meth offenders -- and only meth offenders -- to be jailed on a first or second offense. It is opposed by Meth-Free Arizona -- No on 301, a citizens' and activist organization, as well as leading Arizona jurists.

Colorado: Amendment 44 would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults. Building on successful non-binding resolutions at several Colorado universities and last year's surprise Denver vote to legalize possession under city ordinance, initiative organizers SAFER Colorado have been hammering away at what has proven to be a particularly resonant theme: Marijuana is safer than alcohol. While the most recent polls show the initiative trailing, organizers say those polls under-sample youthful voters who are more likely to vote yes.

Nevada: Question 7 would replace marijuana prohibition with a system of regulated, taxed, and controlled marijuana sales and would allow for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults. Sponsored by the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana, an affiliate of the Marijuana Policy Project, the initiative, if successful, would result in Nevada being the first state to sanction marijuana sales. The effort builds on four years of work in Nevada by MPP and its affiliates. A similar initiative won 39% of the vote in 2002 and a 2004 signature drive failed to make the ballot, but this year the measure not only made the ballot but was polling above 40% in recent weeks and leading in the only poll that used the actual ballot language.

South Dakota: Initiated Measure 4 would allow for the use of medical marijuana by qualified patients with a doctor's recommendation. The measure allows qualified patients or caregivers to grow up to six plants and possess up to one ounce of marijuana. South Dakotans for Medical Marijuana, the group behind the campaign, has just unleashed its latest round of TV and radio commercials featuring two medical marijuana patients and a former police officer. There is no known polling on how the measure will fare in the socially conservative Upper Midwest state.

Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Santa Monica, California: All three cities will vote on initiatives calling for adult marijuana offenses to be the lowest law enforcement priority. Part of the California Cities Campaign, an outgrowth of the successful Oakland Proposition Z lowest priority initiative in 2004, organizers hope victories this year will help lay the groundwork for a statewide effort to further reform California's marijuana laws. Initiative language is available at Sensible Santa Barbara (Measure P), Santa Cruz Citizens for Sensible Marijuana Policies (Measure K), and Santa Monicans for Sensible Marijuana Policy (Measure Y). According to state and local organizers, the most difficult fight will be in Santa Monica.

Missoula County, Montana: Initiative #2 would make adult marijuana offenses the lowest law enforcement priority. Sponsored by Citizens for Responsible Crime Policy, the initiative is facing strong law enforcement opposition, but has the benefit of being held in what is arguably the most liberal county in the state.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas: Sponsored by University of Arkansas/Fayetteville NORML, the municipal ballot measure would make adult marijuana possession the lowest law enforcement priority. It took only 115 signatures to get a lowest priority initiative on the ballot in this small, countercultural town in Northwest Arkansas.

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?”


Alabama: Loretta Nall is running for governor on the Libertarian Party ticket. Denied a line on the ballot by Alabama's tight election laws, Nall is running a write-in campaign in hopes of gaining sufficient votes to win the party a spot on the ballot next time around. While Nall is calling for marijuana legalization and substantive sentencing reform, among other issues, her breasts have garnered the most press coverage. (See related story this issue.)

Connecticut: Long-time drug reform leader Cliff Thornton is running as the Green Party nominee for governor. While Thornton has been excluded from most polls and televised debates, the commanding lead held by incumbent Gov. Jodi Rell over her Democratic opponent may leave political space for a protest vote for Thornton.

Maryland: Long-time drug reform leader Kevin Zeese is running for US Senate as a unity candidate on a combined Green-Populist-Libertarian ticket. With a tighter-than-expected race between Democrat Ben Cardin and Republican Michael Steele, a strong Zeese showing could potentially throw the election to one candidate or the other. With some data suggesting he is drawing support from both candidates, however, and with Cardin so far polling ahead consistently if not comfortably, that is unclear.

New Jersey: The one-time Ed Forchion, who has legally changed his name to NJ Weedman, is on the ballot in the US Senate race. Long a media favorite in the Garden State for his pro-marijuana antics, NJ Weedman campaigns on a platform of legalization.

Texas: Musician, novelist, and humorist Kinky Friedman has called for the legalization of marijuana. He is currently polling in the teens in a four-way race where incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Perry is leading with about 35% of the vote.

(Disclaimer: DRCNet endorses the positive drug reform ballot measures being promoted by our colleagues around the country -- the only ballot measure mentioned here that we oppose is 301 in Arizona. However, Drug War Chronicle is restricted by virtue of DRCNet Foundation's nonprofit status from taking positions for or against any parties or candidates for elected office, and DRCNet's supporters in fact span a wide range of the political spectrum. This article is intended only to provide objective information to foster understanding of the impact of the electoral process on the issue, and to support the democratic principle of an informed electorate.)

Marijuana: Massachusetts Gubernatorial Candidate Favors Legalization, Just Not During His Term

Democratic Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick has, according to recent polling, a huge lead on his opponent, Republican Lt. Gov. Kerry Kealey. It isn't because of the clarity of his position on marijuana policy.

At the fourth and final gubernatorial debate October 26, both major party candidates and two minor party candidates were asked the following question by the debate moderator: "Since the 1970s at least a dozen states have decriminalized the possession by adults of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Massachusetts is not one of them. In a 2003 Boston University study estimated that the thousands of arrests for pot possession each year cost more than $24 million in law enforcement resources. There's a bill before the legislature that would reduce the penalty for possession of less than an ounce to a $100 civil fine. Would you sign it if it reached your desk?"

After saying that he hoped the bill never reached his desk because that was not his priority, Patrick added that law enforcement should emphasize large drug traffickers and that the same person who provided marijuana to his drug addict uncle also provided him with heroin. He concluded his initial response by saying, "I'm very comfortable with the idea of legalizing marijuana. I just don't think it ought to be our priority."

The moderator was reduced to asking Patrick directly if he would veto the bill. "I would veto that," he responded.

Republican candidate Healey didn't dance around in her response. "I would veto that proposal," she said, citing the cost of drug addiction and the "tragedy" of kids in the social service system because of drug-addicted parents. "Anything that leads to drug addiction should be absolutely off the table and I would never legalize drugs."

Independent gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos joined the consensus, saying that he supported medical marijuana, but would veto a decrim bill. Only Green-Rainbow candidate Grace Ross gave any positive indication about the decrim bill, but that was vague too. "I'm not big for throwing people in prison for small amounts of marijuana but what the real issue is -- drug addiction, and every other industrialized nation doesn't have as many people in prison and there's a reason because when someone's addicted to something they can get treatment on demand, they can get treatment immediately because universal health care means when you know you need treatment you go in and you get it. So I think if we're going to talk about drugs lets catch the big folks who have the big amounts of money who bring them into communities, not the small fish."

Still, Ross refused to say whether she would sign or veto a decrim bill, saying she would want to see the context of other "much more important" policy changes. She did, however, obliquely attack Healey's comments about drug-addicted parents. "I think we have got to be real here because it's not about what's legal and what's not legal completely because a lot of those kids in DSS their parents are addicted to alcohol, not to illegal substances and I think that the one piece about this kind of question that's legitimate is that addiction is not connected with which substances are legal or not. And so we need to be honest here. I think the question of where marijuana sits in comparison to alcohol is a legitimate question and we need to deal with addiction as addiction and not about criminalizing people who are addicted. We need to deal with it as addiction."

In local ballot questions in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 general elections, more than 410,000 Massachusetts residents have voted for marijuana law reform.

Coming Down to the Wire in Nevada and Colorado

We're getting down to the final days of this election season, and we're waiting with bated breath for that first marijuana legalization victory in Colorado and/or Nevada. I'll be doing a feature story on these two races on Friday for the Chronicle. I have calls in to both campaigns, but for some reason, these folks appear to be pretty busy right now. Although I was hoping to have something to report today direct from SAFER Colorado and/or theCommittee to Regulate and Control Marijuana in Nevada, neither has gotten back to me yet. Both campaigns have been very active, but the folks in Colorado have really been extraordinary. They have organized event after event, often in a highly imaginative manner, they have hammered away at the alcohol vs. marijuana comparison, they have ambushed their opposition—especially at a news conference last Friday where the drug warriors were met by an unexpected 100 or so protestors. The Nevada campaign, meanwhile, continues to hammer away with media buys and an innovative "new media" strategy that is getting its message out over the Internet. Still, it appears both campaigns are facing an uphill battle. In Colorado, a Denver Post poll a few days ago had the initiative losing by a margin of 57% to 34%. SAFER Colorado protests that the poll is biased an inaccurate, but that is a rather large gap. A Denver Post poll last month was much closer, with 29% in favor, 36% against, and a whopping 35% undecided. Has the opposition really gained 20+ points in a month? I guess we'll find out on Tuesday. It looks a little tighter in Nevada, where a Reno Gazette-Journal poll last week showed the measure losing by a margin of 41% to 52%. Those numbers are up from an earlier Gazette-Journal poll that showed only 37% supported regulating marijuana. The most recent Gazette-Journal poll tracks closely with a Las Vegas Review-Journal poll reporting 42% in favor, 51% opposed. But an poll conducted in late September by independent pollsters for the initiative organizers showed it leading by a margin of 49% to 43%. Again, I guess we'll find out Tuesday. For those who cannot wait until Friday to hear more about what is going on in these two campaigns, I suggest you visit their web sites, which are fairly comprehensive and quite up to date.
United States

[South Dakota] Bill Pits Attorney General Against Medical Marijuana Proponents

United States
Rapid City Journal

What do They Know?

Tensions over Amendment 44 in Colorado have reached a fever pitch as self-appointed marijuana experts continue to emerge with absurb predictions.


A rally at the state Capitol on Friday morning turned into a shouting match between the groups for and against a proposed amendment that would legalize small amounts of marijuana in Colorado.

Gov. Bill Owens and the state's top law enforcement officers planned a press event on the west steps of the Capitol to urge voters to turn down Amendment 44, which would legalize adult possession of one ounce of marijuana.

Supporters of pot legalization tried to shout them down.

If Governor Owens is gonna say stuff like this, I can’t say I blame them:

"In addition to human costs, legalizing marijuana is sure to have an economic impact on every Colorado citizen. These costs include increased costs for substance abuse treatment and other social programs as well as lost revenue due to decreased worker productivity.”

Once again, legalizing marijuana won’t increase treatment costs. It will reduce them dramatically. Most people in marijuana treatment are enrolled against their will following an arrest, which won’t happen anymore if Amendment 44 passes.

As for decreased worker productivity, show me some data and we’ll talk. If the government had the guts to actually study this, they’d find that marijuana users who haven’t been hung out to dry by the criminal justice system are just as productive and successful as non-users; probably far more so than heavy drinkers. The data would then be buried and brought up only by us.

Next they gave the microphone to Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener:

Wegener, who is the president of the County Sheriffs of Colorado, said, "We are also concerned that legalizing marijuana will cause a spike in impaired driving fatalities and injuries caused by more motorists driving impaired on marijuana. The reality also exists that it is more difficult for law enforcement to detect impairment caused by marijuana and other drugs as compared to alcohol."

Clearly something’s got to be done about these mischievous stoners who are too sober to fail a sobriety test.

This is getting ridiculous. Is it so crazy that we want to try something different? We’re asking to step back from a policy that’s done nothing but piss people off for 70 years and these guys start giving prophesies of a great plague. What do they know?

United States

Voters may say: Relax, it's only pot (Los Angeles Times)

United States

Colorado: Amendment 44 Campaign to Air Television Ad Pointing Out the Potential Harms to Women Posed by Our Alcohol-Only Culture

PRESS RELEASE For Immediate Release -- Oct. 30, 2006 Amendment 44 Campaign to Air Television Ad Pointing Out the Potential Harms to Women Posed by Our Alcohol-Only Culture Ad addresses staggering number of alcohol-related rapes and acts of domestic violence Contact: Mason Tvert, SAFER campaign director, (720) 255-4340 DENVER -- Starting tomorrow, on CNN, Fox News, and CNBC in the Denver Metro area, the Amendment 44 campaign will be airing a powerful commercial designed to point out the dangers associated with alcohol use and question why we prohibition adults from using the safer alternative, marijuana. The text of this commercial is included at the end of this release, and the commercial can be viewed at -- The domestic violence statistic comes from the U.S. Department of Justice* and the statistic related to college rapes comes from the Harvard School of Public Health. A summary of the Harvard study is available at -- [* Note: There was an error during production of the ad, which led to an understating in the ad of the portion of spousal abuse cases that are alcohol-related. Here is the actual data: Two-thirds of victims who suffered violence by an intimate (a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend) reported that alcohol had been a factor. Among spouse victims, 3 out of 4 incidents were reported to have involved an offender who had been drinking. Source: U.S. Department of Justice. Bureau of Justice Statistics. National Crime Victimization Survey 2002.)] "The goal of this campaign is to educate the public about the fact that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol," said SAFER Campaign Director Mason Tvert. "The statistics cited in this commercial are further evidence of this fact. Marijuana use does not increase the likelihood of violent behavior, yet we allow the use of alcohol by adults and punish adults who use marijuana. Giving adults the option of using marijuana instead of alcohol will truly make Colorado safer." ==================== Text of the new Amendment 44 television commercial: Why should adults be able to use marijuana instead of alcohol? Two-thirds of all spousal abuse cases are alcohol-related. And nearly three-quarters of all college rapes occur while a female is intoxicated by alcohol. Think about it... Do we want our daughters growing up in a society where the only legal substance for recreation is alcohol? Not if we love them. Help make Colorado safer. Vote YES on Amendment 44.
United States

Video: New Jersey Weedman Ed Forchion on CNN

United States

Pot Proponents Shout Down Governor

Denver, CO
United States
ABC-TV7 Denver

Drug Policy Forum of Kansas: Useful Election Information and More

October 25, 2006

· Drug Policy on the Ballot

· DEA and ONDCP Use Federal Tax Dollars to Oppose Ballot Initiatives

· Volunteers Needed!Next Meeting Scheduled for Oct. 28th

The Drug Policy Forum of Kansas is a 501(c)(3) organization. Donations aretax-deductible.


Drug Policy & Election 2006

Several states have ballot initiatives this year on drug policy issues. Colorado, Nevada, and South Dakota will vote on marijuana-related referendums. In Arizona theywill consider a law to put meth-users behind bars, rather than in treatment. Cities considering making marijuana the lowest priority for law-enforcement include Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Missoula, Montana, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Santa Monica, California.

Former Kansan, Mike Glover, is on the ballot in California, and several candidates for governor across the country have drug-reform platforms.

Read our state-by-state guide, with all the state and local ballot initiatives and details on the candidates with drug-law reform platforms.


FederalTax Dollars Used to Lobby Against Drug-Law Reform Initiatives

Should the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the DEA spend tax-payer monies to oppose state ballot initiatives for drug law reform? Is this a conflict of interest on the part of the government?

Scott Burns, Office of National Drug Control Policy's (ONDCP) deputy director of state and local affairs, visited Rapid City South Dakota on Thursday and Sioux Falls on Friday of last week to oppose the medical marijuana initiative that will be on the South Dakota ballot on November 7. READ MORE.

ONDCP Director John Walters visited Nevada earlier this month and gave taxpayer money to organizations that ballot measure to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol in Nevada.

In 2003, then-Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval (R) criticized Walters’ interference with a 2002 marijuana initiative in the state. "It is unfortunate that a representative of the federal government substantially intervened in a matter that was clearly a State of Nevada issue,” Sandoval wrote in an opinion. “The excessive federal intervention that was exhibited in this instance is particularly disturbing because it sought to influence the outcome of a Nevada election." The Associated Press covered the story yesterday in the Las Vegas Sun.

The DEA have been busy in Colorado opposing the state-wide ballot initiative there. An editorial in the Rocky Mountain News asks the DEA to keep out of local politics.



Busted: Surviving Police Encounters narrated by Ira Glasser retired ACLU Director is now available on the Internet a YouTube. DPFKS KNOW YOUR RIGHTS Brochures are available in pdf format on our web site, and will be distributed free to the public at our events. If you would like copies of the brochure for your organization, contact us.


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