Friday, October 10, 2008

Drugs on the Ballot

States to vote on drug policy proposals.

The Drug War Chronicle has done an excellent job of rounding up the various drug policy initiatives that will appear on state ballots in November. The majority of these initiatives concern marijuana decriminalization, medical marijuana, and prison sentencing reform. The Drug War Chronicle reports in its October 3 issue that the pace of drug policy initiatives has slowed, compared to the beginning of the decade, when medical marijuana initiatives were on the ballot in dozens of states.

While California voters will be asked to strengthen their support of medical marijuana and lessen penalties for possession, voters in Michigan and Massachusetts will have the opportunity to follow California’s lead with marijuana decriminalization initiatives of their own. Michigan’s Proposition 1 would legalize the use of marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation, and would also allow a medical necessity defense when marijuana cases are being prosecuted. According to the Chronicle, a recent poll showed that 66 per cent of Michigan voters favored the proposal. In Massachusetts, Question 2 on the ballot would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana.

California’s Proposition 5 builds on the original work Proposition 36, the 2002 initiative that kicked off the medical marijuana movement in that state. Proposition 5 would divert drug offenders into treatment rather than prison, expand prison rehab programs, and decriminalize possession of an ounce or less.

In Oregon, a medical marijuana initiative is slated for the 2010 election. This year, Ballot Measures 61 and 57 attempt to move things in the opposite direction by imposing stiff mandatory minimum prison sentences for a variety of drug offenses.

There are also some municipal policy initiatives up for a vote this year, including Measure JJ in Berkeley, California. The measure seeks to “broaden and regularize medical marijuana access” through additional dispensaries and uniform operating rules. Fayetteville, Arkansas has a grassroots initiative that would mandate adult marijuana possession as “the lowest law enforcement priority.”

Finally, voters on the Big Island of Hawaii will confront Ballot Question 1, which in essence prohibits law enforcement from spending any money to enforce laws against adult marijuana possession. The Drug War Chronicle says that the initiative was the product of “Project Peaceful Sky, a local grassroots organization whose name alludes to the disruption of tranquility caused by law enforcement helicopters searching for marijuana.”


ludditerobot said...

For the record, Massachusetts' Question 2 won't "legalize" anything. Under the initiative, if you are caught with an ounce or less of marijuana for personal use, it will be confiscated and you will get a $100 citation. If you're younger than 18, you're citation will be delivered to a parent or guardian, you'll have to go to a drug education program, and you'll have to do community service ... all of which is more strict than current law.

That's exactly as "legal" as speeding or any other ticketable offense; which is to say, it's not legal. FYI.

Dirk Hanson said...

It's difficult to settle on the right terminology for this brand of harm reduction. Speeding is the analogy I often use. No one wants speeding enforced to the strict limits of the law--officer discretion is welcomed. "Decriminalization," were it not such a clumsy word, would be the preferred term. And even that term is open to the same kinds of misunderstandings as "legalization."

James Anthony said...

Berkeley's JJ does NOT increase the number of dispensaries. It simply allows the existing three to relocate under responsible regulation.


Dirk Hanson said...

Thanks for the correction.

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