Ballot Watch: Marijuana
Welcome to Ballot Watch. Today is the second in the series of articles on the upcoming ballot initiatives and some key local elections. Some of these will cover topics in common with multiple states, while others will look at a state level.
President Obama has disappointed many left-wing and Libertarian supporters by reneging on his public promises regarding enforcement of marijuana laws. Many of the laws on the list which follows will create a legal quandary: while many social conservatives support the 10th Amendment when it comes to their pet issues, they’re not nearly as keen on the same provision in the Bill of Rights when it comes to same-sex marriage (article Thursday) or medical marijuana use.
In this, our second installment in the Ballot Watch series (Unions First!), I’ll examine marijuana legalization or decriminalization initiatives, state by state.
Washington’s I-502: See Mt. Rainier, Buy a Kilo
Washington’s Initiative 502 would essentially place marijuana on an equal footing with grain alcohol as a decriminalized drug available to all adults. [Complete text.]
From the ballot:
This measure would license and regulate marijuana production, distribution, and possession for persons over twenty-one; remove state-law criminal and civil penalties for activities that it authorizes; tax marijuana sales; and earmark marijuana-related revenues.
Initiative 502 would also institute penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana similar to those for driving under the influence of alcohol. Marijuana tourism would certainly become a possibility if this initiative passes and survives an inevitable court challenge.
June Public Policy Polling (PPP) surveys found 50 percent of Washington voters in favor of this initiative to 37 percent opposed.
Oregon’s Measure 80: A Higher Timber Line?
In Medford, Oregon, on March 21, 2008, a Presidential candidate named Barack Obama promised:
What I’m not going to be doing is using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue simply because I want folks to be investigating violent crimes and potential terrorism. We’ve got a lot of things for our law enforcement officers to deal with.
The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA), Measure 80 on this year’s Oregon ballot, creates an Oregon Cannabis Commission to oversee the legal use of marijuana. [The law’s text is here.]
The initiative’s supporters assert that Oregon spends $61.5 million annually enforcing marijuana laws. They claim OCTA would generate over $140 million annually. As an additional benefit, OCTA would support the agricultural hemp industry with a direct 2 percent subsidy. Ninety percent of the Act’s revenue would go to the general fund, with slices for drug education (1 percent) and treatment programs (7 percent).
In early July, PPP found that 43 percent of Oregonians were in favor and 46 percent opposed to OCTA.
COLORADO Amendment 64: SMOKE ONE FOR THE KIDS
Colorado Amendment 64 is “The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012″. It proposes amending the Colorado State Constitution to legalize marijuana, which is now legal for medicinal purposes and is decriminalized for other purposes. The ballot statement reads,
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning marijuana, and, in connection therewith, providing for the regulation of marijuana; permitting a person twenty-one years of age or older to consume or possess limited amounts of marijuana; providing for the licensing of cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and retail stores; permitting local governments to regulate or prohibit such facilities; requiring the general assembly to enact an excise tax to be levied upon wholesale sales of marijuana; requiring that the first $40 million in revenue raised annually by such tax be credited to the public school capital construction assistance fund; and requiring the general assembly to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp?
Montana IR-124: One Little Tiny Universe
In 2004, Montana voters approved a medical marijuana initiative. The State Legislature has tried to strike down that initiative, and so medical marijuana supporters have brought forward Montana IR-124 to repeal the Legislature’s repeal. It’s almost as mindblowing as the revelation “Pinto” (Tom Hulce) had when first smoking pot with Prof. Jennings (Donald Sutherland) in 1978’s Animal House:
That means…one tiny atom in my fingernail could be…could be one little…tiny universe.
Could I buy some pot from you?
The text on the ballot:
In 2004, Montana voters approved I-148, creating a medical marijuana program for patients with debilitating medical conditions. Senate Bill 423, passed by the 2011 Legislature, repeals I-148 and enacts a new medical marijuana program, which includes: permitting patients to grow marijuana or designate a provider; limiting each marijuana provider to three patients; prohibiting marijuana providers from accepting anything of value in exchange for services or products; granting local governments authority to regulate marijuana providers; establishing specific standards for demonstrating chronic pain; and reviewing the practices of doctors who certify marijuana use for 25 or more patients in a 12-month period.
If Senate Bill 423 is affirmed by the voters, there will be no fiscal impact because the legislature has funded the costs of its implementation. If Senate Bill 423 is rejected by the voters, there may be a small savings to the State.
Massachusetts Question 3 is a pretty straightforward medical marijuana initiative, with provisions similar to those now legal in 17 other states (map at right). Public Policy Polling’s mid-August poll found 58 percent in favor, 27 percent opposed, and 15 percent undecided. It seems almost certain to pass.
It will be interesting to see a comparison of the outcome of marijuana legalization efforts in Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Ballot measures in all three states are quite far along the legalization spectrum, comparable to the California effort (Proposition 19 of 2010) which was defeated 46.5 to 53.5. Recent opinion polling in California shows a bare majority of voters still prefer the status quo, medical marijuana with decriminalization.
Where do you feel the balance between marijuana legalization and states’ rights lies?
- Three Shots at Marijuana Legalization This Fall (reason.com)
- Retired DEA Heads Tell Obama to Stop Pot Legalization Initiatives (slog.thestranger.com)
- Marijuana on the Ballot in Five States in November (reason.com)
- Oregon joins Washington with marijuana initative (king5.com)
- Romney Vows to Fight Marijuana Legalization ‘Tooth and Nail’ — Unlike His Opponent? (reason.com)