Marijuana Legalization

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British Columbia Public Supports Marijuana Legalization

Support for marijuana legalization in British Columbia has reached a whopping 75%, according to a new Angus Reid poll commissioned by Stop the Violence BC, a coalition of law enforcement officials, legal experts, medical and public health officials and academic experts concerned about the links between cannabis prohibition in British Columbia and the growth of organized crime and related violence in the province.

The poll surveyed 799 respondents in British Columbia. The results have a margin of error of +/-  3.5%.

The number supporting legalization is up six points over last year's Angus Reid poll, where 69% supported it. Meanwhile, opposition to legalization has declined from 24% last year to 21% this year.

The new poll also suggested a broad social acceptance of marijuana in Canada's westernmost province, which has been a hotbed of marijuana cultivation and culture for several decades now. Only 14% of those polled believe possession of a joint should lead to a criminal record, down six points from last year, and 74% would be comfortable living in a society where adult cannabis consumption was taxed and legally regulated under a public health framework, an increase of four percentage points from last year.

Strikingly, support for full legalization was higher than support for the half-measure of decriminalization. While 75% supported legalization, only 62% wanted decriminalization.

"From a scientific and public safety, making cannabis illegal has clearly been an expensive and harmful failure," said Dr. Evan Wood, founder of Stop the Violence BC and Canada Research Chair in Inner City Medicine at the University of British Columbia. "With 75% of British Columbians supporting change, and the status quo contributing to increasing harms in BC communities, it is absolutely time for politicians to catch up with the public."

Stop the Violence BC has been pushing for the legalization and regulation of marijuana. Its members include four former BC attorneys general, four former Vancouver mayors, including Larry Campbell, and former West Vancouver police chief and Liberal member of the provincial legislature Kash Heed.

The campaign is picking up steam. In September, the Union of BC Municipalities passed a resolution called for marijuana regulation, and last month, the Public Health Association of BC (PHABC) endorsed regulation.

"From a public health perspective, we urgently need to research alternatives to our current approach to cannabis which has clearly failed to protect public health and has actually resulted in substantial individual and community harms," PHABC president Dr. Marjorie MacDonald said in a statement.

BC
Canada

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

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 (regulatemarijuana.org)
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.

Sentencing

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 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.)

ALERT: Make Phone Calls to Pass Marijuana Legalization Now!

The news cycle is awash with polls and news about the close race for president. But the most important votes happening next month may be historic initiatives to legalize and regulate marijuana -- and these are also going to be close.

You can help these and other initiatives we're supporting, and I hope that between now and Election Day you'll be able to. First, we have partnered with FireDogLake and the "Just Say Now" campaign to do phonebanking in support of Colorado's Amendment 64 and Oregon's Measure 80. (Other initiatives may be added to the site too.) Visit http://fdl.platform.webstrong.com/dna/network/groups/ to open an account -- select StoptheDrugWar.org as your "group," if you're willing to help us in that way -- and make phone calls from your home or anywhere for legalization! There are two options for Colorado, by the way -- one of them general, the other for women to call other women voters in the state.

There are other state initiatives that need your support, including marijuana legalization in Washington, medical marijuana in Arkansas and Montana and Massachusetts, and an important initiative in California to reform the state's draconian "three-strikes" law. Please visit our Election 2012 Resource Page at http://stopthedrugwar.org/election2012 for links to the campaign web sites where you can find volunteer information; the audio recording of our 9/27/12 teleconference with representatives of the legalization initiatives; and a link to our full election coverage archive page, where you can find feature stories we've published in Drug War Chronicle on almost all of these initiatives, Phil's weekly "Initiative Watch" feature, and more.

Please donate to help StoptheDrugWar.org to continue to grow and support the movement, to continue the press for legalization, and to prepare for the next stage after one or more of these measures passes in November. For donations of $35 or more, you can receive one of the two new books or the video that we're offering --  -- donate $95 or more for all three -- click here for all the details.

Thank you for standing with drug policy reform at this amazing and critical time. I believe that something big will happen this November -- with your help.

Oregon Marijuana Measure Still Trails in Late Poll

Measure 80, Oregon's marijuana legalization initiative, continues to trail in the polls as the clock ticks ever closer to Election Day. According to a new poll conducted for The Oregonian and released Tuesday, the measure is losing among likely voters, with 49% opposed and 42% in favor.

Of the three marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot next week -- the other two are Colorado and Washington -- Oregon's Measure 80 is the most radical, calling for outright repeal of the state's marijuana laws and the creation of a commission to oversee the commercial cultivation and distribution of marijuana.

It is also the least well-funded. While Colorado and Washington are seeing multi-million dollar legalization campaigns, the big donor money has stayed out of Oregon. The reasons for that include a lack of favorable early polling, the lateness of Measure 80 in making the ballot (it only did so in July), and lingering controversies over the reputation of medical marijuana entrepreneur Paul Stanford, Measure 80's chief proponent. Stanford came up with enough money to get Measure 80 on the ballot, but not enough to finance an advertising campaign.

The latest poll shows Measure 80 with majority support among Democrats (55%), but not independents (41%) or Republicans (23%). It also garners majority support among voters under 35, but not among any other age group. Among voters over 65, who vote heavily, only 30% support Measure 80, while 62% are opposed.

Another key demographic that is dragging the measure down is women. While men split almost evenly on the issue, a majority of women (52%) oppose it, while only 37% support it.

Still, Yes on 80 campaign spokesman Roy Kaufmann told The Oregonian it isn't over yet. Pollsters tend to undercount younger voters who are harder to reach, he said, and older voters may be reluctant to admit they favor voting for "an issue that's still considered by many to be taboo."  The campaign "still has work to do, but we're within fighting distance," he said.

The poll was conducted October 25 through 28 by Seattle-based Elway polling and surveyed nearly a thousand likely voters statewide. It has a margin of error of +/- 5%.

OR
United States

Marijuana Legalization Polls Highest Support Yet

A new YouGov poll conducted for the Huffington Post has found that a whopping 59% of respondents nationwide support legalizing marijuana, with 51% saying they want it legalized, taxed, and regulated, and another 8% saying they it legalized -- period.Only 26% opposed legalization, while another 15% were uncertain.

The YouGov results show stronger support for legalization than other polls, most famously a Gallup poll that showed support breaking 50% for the first time ever. Other polls in recent months, including ones from CBS News and the Pew Research Center, had support for legalization at 40% and 45%, respectively.

Some of the polling difference may be the result of the question structure. The YouGov poll gave respondents the option of supporting either legalization with taxation and regulation or without, possibly garnering support from respondents concerned about wide-open legalization.

Another difference is that the YouGov poll was conducted online instead of using live interviewers over the phone. This relatively new polling method used a 1,000-person "sample drawn from YouGov's opt-in online panel that was selected to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult US population." The poll has a margin of error slightly larger than most other polls, at +/- 4.2%.

Breaking down the demographics, support for taxed and regulated legalization was remarkably consistent across age groups, from a low of 49% among 45-to-64-year-olds to a high of 53% among those 65 and older, with other age groups coming in between.  But support for untaxed and unregulated legalization was more age specific, with the highest levels of support coming from the 45-to-64 age group (13%) and those under age 29 (9%).

By political affiliation, 69% of Democrats supported legalization (either regulated and taxed or not), as did 58% of independents and 47% of Republicans. That latter figure is higher than the figure for Republicans who opposed legalization (44%).

Only 38% of respondents said they had used marijuana, although another 8% refused to answer.

Somewhat surprisingly, support for medical marijuana was only slightly higher than support for legalization, with some 64% saying they supported it and 23% saying they were opposed.

Whether the YouGov poll is an outlier because of its relatively new polling methods remains to be seen, but it appears to be yet another in an increasingly long line of polls showing support for marijuana legalization trending upward.

Colorado Marijuana Measure Hits 53% in New Poll

In a poll conducted mid-week last week, Public Policy Polling has Colorado's Amendment 64 marijuana legalization initiative winning, with 53% of respondents saying they would vote for it. Only 43% were opposed, with 5% still undecided.

The critical women's demographic appears to be moving toward support of Amendment 64. (regulatemarijuana.org)
The number is up slightly from recent polls, one of which had the measure leading by a margin of 48% to 43%. The second recent poll had the measure at 50%, with 40% opposed.

What had begun to appear as shrinking support among women voters in those two recent polls appears to have reversed in this latest poll. It has women supporting Amendment 64 by a margin of 50% to 46%.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is pulling out the stops as Election Day draws near. The well-funded campaign is running two TV advertisements and a radio ad featuring single Melissa Etheridge. It also had actress Susan Sarandon doing robo-calls to still-undecided voters.

But the campaign is taking nothing for granted, and it is asking supporters around the country to go to the phone banking website set up by Firedog Lake and make calls to the as yet uncommitted. In such a tight race, every potential "yes" vote counts.

The Public Policy Polling survey contacted 904 likely voters. The margin of error is +/- 3.3%.

CO
United States

Third Party Candidates Call for Legalization

Three of four third party presidential candidates used a Tuesday night debate to come out in favor of marijuana legalization and to criticize drug prohibition in general. Neither the topic of marijuana legalization nor the larger topic of the war on drugs was mentioned in the three separate debates between President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Third party candidates were excluded from those debates.  

Unlike the major party presidential debates, which were carried live by multiple mainstream media outlets, the debate sponsored by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation suffered a virtually media blackout in the US, but was broadcast by Russia-based RT TV and Al Jazeera News.

"We don't need to just legalize marijuana in this country, we need to end drug prohibition just as we did alcohol Prohibition, and treat drug use and abuse as a public health and educational issue and get it completely out of the criminal justice system," said former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson, presidential candidate for the Justice Party.

"I'm not for legalizing drugs. If you want that, vote for one of them. Don’t vote for me," said independent candidate Virgil Goode, a former Virginia Republican congressman.

Goode added that federal funding for the war on drugs should be reduced and that enforcement should primarily be a state issue. He then went on to suggest other areas of federal funding that he would like to see reduced, leaving moderator Larry King to remind him to stick to the topic at hand.

"We're on drugs. We're on drugs," King said.

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson followed Goode, and there were no surprises from the long-time advocate of legalization.

"Let's legalize marijuana now -- and right now in this country, we are on a tipping point on this issue," he said to enthusiastic cheers. He added that he is not "advocating drug use," but rather acknowledging that it is an "issue that belongs with families, not in the criminal justice system."

"I am not a hypocrite on this issue," Johnson said. "I have drank alcohol, I have smoked marijuana… In no category is marijuana more dangerous than alcohol. And yet we are arresting 1.8 million people a year in this country on drug-related crime."

Last up was Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who drew on her career as a doctor to challenge the war on drugs.

"Marijuana is a substance that is dangerous because it’s illegal," Stein said. "It's not illegal on account of being dangerous, because it's not dangerous at all."

The Free and Equal Election Foundation will hold another debate on October 30. It asked viewers to rank the four candidates in order of preference, with the top two vote-getters moving on to the final debate, but no results have been announced yet.

 

 

(This article 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.)

Chicago, IL
United States

Latest Polls Show Washington Marijuana Initiative Tightening, Oregon Trailing

New polling data released in the past week shows Washington's I-502 marijuana legalization initiative still ahead, but not comfortably so, and Oregon's Measure 80 continuing to trail. The polls come as the campaign season enters its final weeks.

In Washington, a SurveyUSA/KING 5 News poll showed I-502 winning with 55% in favor and 36% opposed. Only 8% said they were still undecided. That's good news since because it suggests that for I-502 to lose, it would not only have to lose every undecided voter, but also one out of ten of the people who say they are voting for it.

But a second poll, released Thursday, is a bit more concerning. In the KCTS 9 Washington poll of registered and likely voters, I-502 led by 50.9% to 40.8% among registered voters and 47.1% to 40.1% among likely voters. That's still a seven-to-ten-point lead, but the measure polls that high only when counting not only "certain" yes voters, but also "Yes -- could change" and "Undecided -- leaning yes" voters.

Using only "certain" voters, the race gets tighter. Among registered "certain" voters, 38.4% were voting yes, while 35.0% were voting no. Among likely "certain" voters, 37.2% were voting yes, while 31.8% were voting no.

I-502 still appears favored to win, but it's white-knuckle time for those steering the campaign.

It's not looking as good in Oregon. Measure 80 continues to trail in a new SurveyUSA poll and is in fact declining slightly in popularity from a SurveyUSA poll done five weeks ago. Only 36% of respondents said they were voting for Measure 80, while 43% said they were voting against. The initiative has lost one point since the previous poll, while the opposition has gained two points.

That still leaves more than one out of five voters undecided, meaning Measure 80 could theoretically still triumph. But it would have to hold onto all of its "yes" voters and pick up two-thirds of the undecideds to do so, and that is an exceedingly tall order.

Measure 80 has majority support among only one demographic group, liberals, where it garners 60%. It has lost previous majority support among Democrats and independents and trails among all age groups. It looks like it will be back to the drawing board for Oregon activists.

Gary Johnson Supporters Robocall Colorado Democrats Over Marijuana Crackdown

Colorado is a tightly-contested swing state. According to the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls, Republican challenger Mitt Romney holds a vanishingly narrow lead over President Obama of 47.8% to 47.6%. In a national election that appears to be growing tighter in the final weeks, Colorado could end up deciding who wins.

Gary Johnson
It is also a state where there are two reasons marijuana is at play as a political issue. Most significantly, it is the site of the Amendment 64 Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol legalization campaign, which maintains a shrinking lead in recent polls, and which has generated reams of media coverage in recent weeks. But it is also one of the medical marijuana states that have seen their dispensary systems threatened by heavy-handed federal interventions, which has generated ill-feeling toward the Obama administration in some quarters.

And it is a state where Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, the former Republican governor of neighboring New Mexico, is making a strong push, with marijuana legalization and marijuana policy as one of his strongest talking points. Johnson isn't included in those polls mentioned above, but when pollsters do bother to include him, as Public Policy Polling did last month and Politico did this month, he's bringing in about 5% of the vote -- and he takes three votes away from Obama for every two he takes from Romney. [Update: The latest PPP poll, released Monday, shows Johnson taking away slightly more from Romney than Obama.]

Democrats may have been hoping that turnout by supporters of marijuana legalization would help them cruise to victory in Colorado, but Johnson is doing his best to separate those voters from the Democrats who hope to own them. Johnson has been stumping feverishly on legalization, and his campaign has smartly used all the attention paid to the initiative to generate attention for his position and his candidacy.

Now, as David Sirota points out in an excellent analysis of pot and presidential politics in Colorado in Salon, things have escalated, with pro-Johnson robo-call ads identified with the Utah-based libertarian think tank the Libertas Institute going out to Democratic voters with a message that should be chilling for Democrats:

"Hello, fellow Democrat," a friendly male voice says. "Like you I was thrilled to vote for Barack Obama in 2008. In 2008, candidate Obama promised not to use the Justice Department to prosecute medical marijuana in states where it was legal. But the real Obama did just that, more than doubling prosecutions, putting people in prisons and shutting down medical marijuana facilities in Colorado. That's not the change you wanted on health freedom. But you can still be a force for hope and change by voting for Gary Johnson."

Could Gary Johnson peel off enough voters disenchanted with the Obama administration's medical marijuana stance and motivated by a chance to vote for marijuana legalization to throw the state, and just possibly, the national election, to Romney? We will know in less than two weeks.

(This article 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.)

CO
United States

Initiative Watch

With less than three weeks to go until election day, there is a lot of activity on the state-level initiative front- -- but not everywhere. Some campaigns are staying mighty quiet, and that's a strategy that could work for them. Let's get to it:

National

On Monday, former DEA heads and drug czars reiterated their call for the Justice Department to attack marijuana legalization initiatives. The drug warriors are attempting to pressure Attorney General Eric Holder to take a public stand against the initiatives.

"Next month in Colorado, Oregon and Washington states, voters will vote on legalizing marijuana," Peter Bensinger, the moderater of the call and former administrator of the DEA during the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations, began the call. "Federal law, the US Constitution and Supreme Court decisions say that this cannot be done because federal law preempts state law. And there is a bigger danger that touches every one of us -- legalizing marijuana threatens public health and safety. In states that have legalized medical marijuana, drug driving arrests, accidents, and drug overdose deaths have skyrocketed. Drug treatment admissions are up and the number of teens using this gateway drug is up dramatically."

That prompted a response from the Marijuana Policy Project: "These former officials are stuck in the mindset that we can arrest our way to decreased marijuana use," said Morgan Fox, the group's communications manager. "This policy has obviously failed and at great cost. We need to treat marijuana as a public health issue and stop wasting resources arresting adults for using something that is demonstrably safer than alcohol. Unfortunately, people like these former officials, who have made careers out of keeping marijuana illegal, are promoting federal interference against reform efforts. Individual states need to be free to experiment with polices that give control of the marijuana market to legitimate businesses instead of criminals and that do not include arrest or incarceration. The federal government should be encouraging states to explore alternatives to ineffective policies rather than expensively and uniformly pursuing continued failure."

Arkansas

On Monday, the Arkansas Pharmacists Association said it would oppose Issue 5, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act. The association said it opposed the measure because it does not incorporate pharmacists and would lead to conflicts with federal law. The pharmacists said they weren't taking a position on medical marijuana, only on the initiative. They said if Arkansas wants medical marijuana, it should pursue regulatory changes to get it rescheduled.

On Wednesday, the Arkansas Times endorsed Issue 5. The Little Rock alternative weekly said it has "misgivings" about legalizing medical marijuana given federal opposition, but said it was always a safe bet to line up opposite the "hateful" Arkansas Family Council, which opposes it.

California

See our feature story on the Three Strikes sentencing reform initiative, Proposition 36, this week here.

Colorado

Last Friday, musician Melissa Etheridge endorsed Amendment 64, the state's legalization initiative. She appears on a new radio ad and talks about her personal experience with marijuana, first as a cancer patient, and then as a legalization advocate.

On Sunday, a new poll had Amendment 64 still winning, but with a shrinking margin. The initiative was ahead 48% to 43%, but was seeing declines in support among women, people with a college degree, and some other demographics. A poll a week earlier had Amendment 64 at 50% with a 10-point lead.

On Monday, the United Food and Commercial Workers endorsed Amendment 64, saying it would create jobs and bolster the state and local economies. UFCW Local 7, which represents 25,000 workers in Colorado and Wyoming is the state's largest union. "Amendment 64 will foster economic growth and enhance public safety for our members across Colorado," said UFCW Local 7 president Kim Cordova. "Removing marijuana from the underground market and regulating it similarly to alcohol will create living-wage jobs and bolster our state and local economies with tens of millions of dollars in new tax revenue and savings. By taking marijuana off the streets and putting it in retail stores, we can stop steering money toward gangs and drug cartels, and start directing it toward legitimate, job-producing Colorado businesses."

On Tuesday, two dozen state clergy and faith leaders endorsed Amendment 64. "How we punish people and what we punish them for are central moral questions," said the Rev. Bill Kurton. "If a punishment policy fails to meet its objectives and causes harms to humans, I believe we have a moral obligation to support change. Our laws punishing marijuana use have caused more harm than good to our society and that is why I am supporting replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of strict regulation with sensible safeguards."

Massachusetts

The buttoned-down Question 3 campaign is keeping mighty quiet as its medical marijuana initiative maintains a comfortable lead in polls.

Montana

The I-124 campaign, which seeks a "no" vote to repeal the legislature's gutting last year of the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law, is also staying quiet.

Oregon

Last Friday, Clear Channel Communications agreed to take down a series of billboards put up by groups tied to the Florida-based Drug Free America Foundation, operated by long-time drug warriors Mel and Betty Sembler. The communications giant acted after online protests by Women for Measure 80, the state's legalization initiative. The billboards featured a photograph of a young woman who appeared strung out on crack or meth, not marijuana. "The ads protesting marijuana are being removed because our policy is transparency of advertising campaigns and the advertisers who are sponsoring them," said a Clear Channel spokesman. "These ads include a misleading website that we believe needed to honestly represent the advertiser so the ads are being removed."

On Monday, Measure 80 supporters rallied at the state capitol. Several dozen showed up to show their support.

Washington

Last Thursday, researchers reported that there had been 240,000 marijuana possession arrests in the state in the past 25 years. Police made more than half of those marijuana arrests in just the last 10 years. Nearly four out of five arrested were under age 35, and ethnic minorities were arrested at rates disproportionate to their makeup of the population. The report was prepared by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, which has produced studies of marijuana possession arrests in New York, California, and major US cities.

Last Friday, I-502 proponent Rick Steves was heckled at the state capitol rotunda by about 20 noisy protestors, including medical marijuana advocates who bitterly oppose the initiative. Four or five of the protestors were escorted out of the building by state police, and Rep. Sam Hunt, an I-502 supporter, got into a scuffle with one of the opponents.

Drug War Issues

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