Archive for the ‘ballot initiative’ category

Alaska: Election Officials Postpone Marijuana Legalization Vote To November

April 22nd, 2014

Alaska voters will decide this November on a proposed initiative to regulate the production and retail sale of cannabis to adults.

Although the measure was initially scheduled to go before voters during the state’s primary election in August, state officials this week decided to push back the vote to the November general election. The postponement was required because lawmakers failed to adjourn this year’s legislative session within 90 days, the standard time allotted under state rules. Under Alaska law, ballot initiatives must go to voters no less than 120 days after the end of that year’s legislative session.

If enacted by voters this November, the ballot measure would legalize the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis as well as the cultivation of up to six-plants (three flowering) for personal consumption. It would also allow for the establishment of licensed, commercial cannabis production and retail sales of marijuana and marijuana-infused products to those over the age of 21. Commercial production and retail sales of cannabis would be subject to taxation, but no taxes would be imposed upon those who choose to engage in non-commercial activities (e.g., growing small quantities of marijuana for personal use and/or engaging in not-for-profit transfers of limited quantities of cannabis.) Public consumption of cannabis would be subject to a civil fine.

The measure neither amends the state’s existing medical marijuana law, which was approved by voters in 1998, nor does it diminish any privacy rights established by the state’s Supreme Court in its 1975 ruling Ravin v State.

Under present state law, the possession of marijuana not in one’s residence is classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 90-days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

According to the results of a statewide Public Policy Polling survey, released in February, 55 percent of registered voters “think (that) marijuana should be legally allowed for recreational use, that stores should be allowed to sell it, and that its sales should be taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol.” Only 39 percent of respondents oppose the idea. The survey possesses a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent.

If enacted, Alaska will be the third US state to regulate the legal retail production and sale of cannabis to adults.

Also this November, voters in Florida will decide on a constitutional amendment to allow for the physician-approved use and retail distribution of cannabis for medical purposes.

Florida Democrats Add Medical Marijuana to the Ballot to Boost Voter Turnout for the Midterm Election

April 14th, 2014

Florida Democrats are pushing for a constitutional amendment that would put medical marijuana on the state’s ballot this November. If the initiative passes, Florida would become the first southern state to legalize some form of marijuana usage. Recent Battleground polls have shown widespread support, especially among young voters.

In a previous MPP blog post, we discussed how about 70% of voters (nationwide) would be more likely to vote this fall if marijuana was on the ballot, and how midterm elections traditionally have lower voter turnout, especially with young voters and liberals. In the 2012 elections, Washington and Colorado both saw significant spikes in voter turnout, possibly due to marijuana being on the ballot. If Florida follows suit, it will be a testament to marijuana’s spillover effect.

Florida Democrats are hoping it “could have a marginal impact,” which doesn’t sound like much, but “a marginal impact in Florida could be the difference between winning and losing,” according to Steve Schale, a Democratic consultant who managed Obama’s Florida campaign in 2008.

A recent Republican victory in a special House election last month typified the Democrats’ turnout problem. The St. Petersburg-area district has 2.4 percent more registered Republicans than Democrats, but GOP voters outnumbered Democrats by eight percentage points, according to election results.

Oklahomans for Health Files Ballot Initiative for Medical Marijuana

April 11th, 2014
Chris Benge, Oklahoma Secretary of State
Chris Benge, Oklahoma Secretary of State

Today, Oklahomans for Health submitted an application for petition with Oklahoma Secretary of State, Chris Benge, which proposes to add a question to the November ballot asking whether or not Oklahomans should legalize medical marijuana for serious conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.

The initiative would call for the reclassification of marijuana as an herbal drug, which would be regulated by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. It would also create licensing and regulatory rules for cultivation and distribution through dispensaries. Patients wanting to use medical marijuana would need to pay a $125 application fee for a medical marijuana card and have an Oklahoma board-certified physician provide a recommendation.

The proposed initiative comes at a time when support for medical marijuana is growing in the state with a recent poll showing 71% approval rate for decriminalizing medical marijuana. A rally was held at the State Capital in February, where parents of epileptic children came to talk to their representatives. Even Josh Stanley of Strains of Hope, featured on WEEDS by Sanjay Gupta, showed up to support Oklahomans in their plight.

Although Oklahoma has some of the harshest marijuana laws, Chip Paul, Chairman of Oklahomans for Health, believes the “language in this initiative…should be a very easy thing for the state of Oklahoma to manage.”

Alaska Initiative to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Officially Qualifies for 2014 Primary Ballot

February 28th, 2014

AKRegulateAlaska is on its way to becoming the third state in the nation to end marijuana prohibition!

Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell announced yesterday that an initiative to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older and regulate it like alcohol has officially qualified for the August 19 primary ballot. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska now has less than six months to campaign in support of the measure.

A generous supporter has offered to help the campaign get off to a strong start by matching dollar-for-dollar every donation it receives during the next three weeks, up to a total of $15,000.  MPP hopes you’ll take advantage of this special opportunity by making a donation to the Alaska campaign today.

A poll conducted earlier this month found 55% of Alaska voters think it’s time to make marijuana legal and regulate it like alcohol. But victory is far from guaranteed, so it’s critical that the campaign raise money right now to build a strong coalition, mobilize supporters across the state, and run ads in August.

Petition Filed to Allow Medical Marijuana in Florida

July 8th, 2013

Last week, the grassroots organization People United for Medical Marijuana filed a petition to allow medical marijuana for seriously ill patients in Florida.

The petition proposes an amendment to the Florida Constitution that would permit the cultivation, purchase, and use of marijuana to treat a number of specified and severe diseases, including cancer, AIDS, and Crohn’s disease. Petition-gatherers will need to collect 683, 149 signatures from registered voters in order to make it onto next year’s ballot. If the signatures are collected and approved on time, the measure would require 60% of the vote to become law.

Although the petition has yet to garner a significant vote count, the group is optimistic that the recent addition of a wealthy donor to the organization will aid their efforts.

PastedGraphic-1

John Morgan

John Morgan, a personal injury attorney and business owner whose father used cannabis to cope with the pain of esophageal cancer, recently joined the advocacy group. In addition to his position as a committee member, he donated $100,000 to the campaign. Morgan has said that he will contribute $1 million if necessary. “I’ve seen people in pain who end up on oxycodone,” Morgan said. “And 16,000 people die from that every year. It’s highly addictive. Legalizing marijuana is a no brainer.”

In a recent poll, 61% of Floridians supported medical marijuana. That number rose to 70% when ballot language listed specific qualifying diseases like cancer.

Alaska OKs Ballot Initiative Application to Legalize Marijuana for Adults

June 19th, 2013

Following the approval of a ballot initiative application on Friday, it seems that Alaska may be the next state to legalize marijuana for adults.

LtGovenor Mead Treadwell

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell

On June 14, Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell certified a ballot initiative application that would put the question of whether to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol up to state voters. In order to appear on next year’s ballot, the initiative must receive 30,169 signatures from qualified voters.

The proposal would create state-regulated marijuana stores, cultivation facilities, and the option for Alaska’s legislature to create a Marijuana Control Board tasked with overseeing the industry. It would also allow adults to grow up to six marijuana plants.

Petition sponsor Tim Hinterberger stated that advocates hope to finish collecting signatures by January in order to get the petition on the primary ballot.

If the proposal passes, it would help to clear up Alaskans’ confusion over some of the nation’s most contradictory marijuana laws. In 1975, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that possession of less than four ounces in the home was protected from criminal sanctions by the state constitution’s right to privacy. However, in 2006, the legislature passed a bill criminalizing the possession of even small amounts of marijuana. Meanwhile, the state is one of 18 that allows patients to access medical marijuana.

Mason Tvert, a spokesman for MPP, is quoted in the Huffington Post as saying that this proposal is not a “blanket protection for marijuana possession… In order to have a system where individuals can go to the store, buy an ounce of marijuana, drive home, and enjoy it at home, it is necessary to make up to an ounce of marijuana entirely legal.”

Alaska Prepares for 2014 Ballot Initiative

April 17th, 2013

On Tuesday, the Anchorage Daily News reported, marijuana policy reform activists in Alaskaalaska map presented a drafted ballot initiative that calls for taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol along will 100 signatures to the state lieutenant governor’s office. It’s the first of many steps needed to put marijuana on the 2014 primary ballot.

The measure, which would allow adults 21 and older to use and cultivate marijuana, will now undergo a 60-day review. If state officials allow the initiative to move forward, 30,169 more signatures will need to be acquired by mid-January in order to force a vote.

A similar initiative in 2004 failed to pass; however, unlike the past measure, the new initiative would not include amnesty for past marijuana offenses.

2012: Marijuana on the Ballot

November 1st, 2012

On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, and our failed experiment with alcohol prohibition was put to rest. Americans grew tired of the ever-worsening violence associated with the rise of the criminal alcohol market that developed in the absence of a legally recognized and properly regulated industry. As a society, we came to realize that the dangerous and unavoidable collateral markets created by prohibition were in fact more detrimental to society than alcohol itself. On November 6, 2012, some 79 years later, many Americans will have the opportunity to strike the very important first blows against another failed prohibition: marijuana’s.

The upcoming General Election will allow millions of Americans to bypass the legislative process and decide for themselves whether prohibitive marijuana policies should stand. Three states – Colorado, Washington, and Oregon – will be voting on measures to end the state prohibition on adult marijuana possession and use. Two states – Arkansas and Massachusetts – will be voting on whether exemptions should be carved out of their state criminal codes to allow possession and use for the seriously ill. One state – Montana – will vote on a referendum to repeal a law that gutted their previously enacted medical marijuana law. Finally, a host of cities and towns across the country will be voting on measures that either reform city codes or send symbolic messages that greater reform is needed.

State measures to end marijuana prohibition

Three states will be voting on measures to tax and regulate marijuana, and odds are at least one will pass. There has been steady majority or plurality support for both Colorado’s and Washington’s initiatives, and Oregon’s question has seen a recent uptick in the polls as well. If any of the three do pass, it would represent a sea change in American marijuana policy.

While the minutia of all three measures differ – and I highly encourage voters in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon to read their measures – they are born of common goals. The idea is to devise a system where marijuana sales are brought out of the criminal market and instead subjected to careful regulation and taxation. With tight controls, marijuana would be legally grown and sold by law-abiding, tax-paying businesses, as opposed to the criminal enterprises that currently hold a monopoly over the lucrative marijuana market. Creating a legal and regulated market ensures safety and transparency with regard to potency by allowing cultivators to legally test their product. Strict age limits on sales will create barriers to underage consumption by imposing penalties on businesses that sell to minors (when was the last time a drug dealer asked for ID?). A taxed and regulated market also means that states will see added revenue that can help with funding education projects, medical research, etc. The current system ensures that states capture no revue on marijuana sales.

So what will the effect of passage be and what will the feds do? The first question is pretty easy: if one, two, or all three of these pass, millions of Americans 21 and older will no longer be subject to arrest for the possession or private use of a plant proven safer than alcohol. It is clear that states can, and do, create their own criminal laws. In addition, 99% of all marijuana arrests are made under state law. So if states remove their criminal penalties against marijuana possession and private use, we can expect to see a significant drop in marijuana-related arrests.

The second question – how the feds will react – is difficult to predict. The feds can choose to allow the states to proceed with implementation of the regulatory structure without interference. This would be what I like to call the ‘laboratory of democracy’ approach. We already know the results of the marijuana prohibition experiment: control in the hands of criminals, laced product, exposure to all kinds of other illicit drugs, violence, and no decrease in use or abuse. It’s high time a state tests a different approach. Although taxation and regulation may not lead to a decrease in use or abuse, it will certainly eliminate or greatly reduce the negative collateral consequences that are inherent in marijuana prohibition.

The feds could also sue to enjoin the implementation of the new regulatory schemes. At first blush, this may seem scary, but as Dominic Holden recently stated, this too represents a major opportunity for change. A suit against Colorado, Washington, or Oregon would force us to have a national dialogue about our current marijuana policies. With 50% of the population – not to mention an ever-growing list of opinion makers – arguing for the end of marijuana prohibition, it’s a conversation that needs to happen. Look at the increase in support for gay marriage after the first lawsuit was filed challenging California’s Prop 8. If we can have an open and honest conversation, we can expedite policy reform.

Either way, we’re not going to know until a state votes to change their marijuana policies. If you live in Colorado, please vote “yes” on Amendment 64. If you’re in Washington, you’re voting “yes” on I-502. For those of you in Oregon, please vote “yes” on Measure 80. To all of you, I’m envious of your ballot.

State medical marijuana questions

In addition to the three states voting on measures to regulate and tax the adult sales of marijuana, two states have initiatives on the ballot that will create medical marijuana programs. Arkansas and Massachusetts, if passed, will become the 18th and 19th medical marijuana states. They will join the District of Columbia and 17 other states that currently recognize the legitimate medical use of marijuana.

The number of medical marijuana states continues to grow despite obstruction and interference from the federal level, and for the most part, the previously enacted laws continue to thrive. Passage of one or two more laws come November 6 will not only protect citizens of Arkansas and Massachusetts from arrest and prosecution for using a medicine recommended by their physicians, but it will further the momentum and send a loud message to federal policy makers: reform your punitive and unscientific marijuana laws.

Unfortunately, the federal government’s attempt to undermine state medical marijuana laws worked in at least one state, Montana. This past legislative session, Montana lawmakers debated a series of bills that proposed severe restrictions and even outright repeal of the voter-approved medical marijuana law. The amendments the legislature settled on are onerous enough that many took to calling it “repeal in disguise.” After passage, enough signatures were gathered to put the new restrictive law to the voters as an up or down referendum. By rejecting the ‘repeal in disguise’ law, voters in Montana can once again affirm their desire to see sensible marijuana policies.

Reform on the local ballots

Reform comes not just from the state level, but from the local level as well. Municipalities across the country will have marijuana policy related questions – some binding, others not – on their ballots.

Five municipalities in Michigan will be voting on marijuana policy measures. Kalamazoo will be voting on whether to allow three medical marijuana dispensaries to operate within city limits. Residents of Detroit and Flint will decide if their city codes should be amended to remove criminal penalties for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana on private property. Grand Rapids will ask its residents if the code should be amended to replace the possibility of arrest for marijuana possession with a nominal civil fine. Finally, Ypsilanti voters will decide on a measure to make the use and/or consumption of one ounce or less of marijuana by adults 21 years or older the lowest priority for law enforcement personnel.

In addition to voting on medical marijuana, voters in certain districts in Massachusetts will also vote on non-binding public policy questions that direct elected officials to support taxing and regulating marijuana. While they do not have the effect of law, passage of the questions would send a strong message to the representatives of those districts that their constituents support taxing and regulating marijuana. Further north, voters in Burlington, Vermont will be asked if the city should “support the legalization, regulation, and taxation of all cannabis and hemp products?”

Finally, many cities and localities across California will be voting on measures to allow or ban medical marijuana dispensaries from operating in their municipality. Unlike most laws with regulated distribution, California’s medical marijuana law allows localities to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries as opposed to the state.

High-level political support for marijuana policy reform

It is worth pointing out that marijuana policy reform is not just relegated to a ballot issue. There are many top-level politicians who are starting to either speak up, or speak louder, on the need to reform our marijuana policies. For instance, Gov. Pete Shumlin in Vermont has long supported decriminalizing the possession of marijuana. The Democratic Attorney General and candidate for Governor in Montana, Steve Bullock, opposes the recent assault on patients rights’ and will vote against IR-124. More impressive is the fact that the entire political delegation representing Seattle, Washington, including Mayor Mike McGinn, supports taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol.

The beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition

We very well may remember Wednesday, November 7 as the morning we woke up to discover marijuana’s been legalized. If not, then we most certainly will have seen the most support for a regulation and taxation measure to date. Regardless of the outcomes of the various questions, we will have advanced the conversation in a major way. Marijuana policy reform is not about letting a bunch of people get high. It’s about adequately addressing the harms that are associated with marijuana use while stamping out the atrocities that were born from marijuana prohibition. The ballot measures in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon would do just that, while the medical questions being asked of the citizens in Montana, Massachusetts, and Arkansas and the various municipal questions would impact the marijuana policy conversation as well. As a nation, we are moving ever closer to acceptance of a taxed and regulated marijuana marketplace; it’s now just a matter of time.

Pepperdine Shuts Down MPP Internship

September 12th, 2012

Last Monday, the State Policies department at MPP eagerly awaited the arrival of our new intern, who was slated to begin her semester-long internship with us that morning. We were puzzled when she didn’t show up and shocked when we learned the reason why — the deans of the internship program at Pepperdine University, where she is a student, would not approve an internship at MPP for academic credit because it was “not in keeping with the university mission and the student handbook.”

According to its website, the university’s mission is detailed as follows: “Pepperdine is a Christian university committed to the highest standards of academic excellence and Christian values, where students are strengthened for lives of purpose, service, and leadership.” The university’s affirmation statement goes on to say that, “As a Christian university, Pepperdine affirms that truth, having nothing to fear from investigation, should be pursued relentlessly in every discipline.”

In reading Pepperdine’s mission and vision statements, we at MPP considered our mission and that of Pepperdine as not only compatible but also complementary. MPP believes that the greatest harm associated with marijuana is prison, and we seek to reduce penalties for both the medical and non-medical use of marijuana in order to reduce that harm. We firmly believe that there is a disconnect between what the science says about marijuana use and what policies stand as law — laws which create far greater harms than those inflicted by the substance itself. In sum, an internship with MPP means engaging in very challenging and controversial work, undertaken for the greater good and the pursuit of truth.

Many prominent religious leaders and organizations support marijuana policy reform, along the spectrum of medical marijuana, decriminalization, and taxation and regulation. Seemingly, the Christian message is, or should be, one of mercy, humanity, and stopping the nation’s failed war on marijuana users.

In the spring of 2012, conservative Christian televangelist and founder of the Christian Coalition Pat Robertson spoke out in favor of ending marijuana prohibition, citing concerns about prison overpopulation and harsh sentences for non-violent offenders:

We’re locking up people that take a couple puffs of marijuana and, and the next thing they know they got ten years, they got mandatory sentences. And these judges they say, they throw up their hands and say ‘there’s nothing we can do there’s mandatory sentences.’ We got to take a look at what we’re considering crimes and that’s, that’s one of them. I mean I’m, I’m not exactly for the use of drugs, don’t, don’t get me wrong, but I just believe that criminalizing marijuana – criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of, of pot and that kind of thing – I mean it’s costing us a fortune and it’s ruining young people! Young people go into prisons . . . as youths and they come out as hardened criminals. It’s not a good thing.

Robertson went on to endorse taxation and regulation initiatives that will appear on two states’ November 2012 ballots, Amendment 64 in Colorado* and I-502 in Washington, both of which would end criminal penalties for adult marijuana use and treat marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. More recently, several African-American clergy members endorsed Washington’s I-502, noting the harms of marijuana prohibition and the racially disproportionate nature of its enforcement.

When MPP led a taxation and regulation ballot initiative in Nevada in 2006, at least 33 clergy members endorsed the measure. In fact, many religious leaders oppose our current marijuana policies specifically for faith-related reasons. As the Rev. David Scheuneman, a Unitarian Universalist community minister in Las Vegas, noted: “One of the roles of religion is to point out hypocrisy in society. By any means, marijuana is less dangerous to individuals and society than alcohol.”

Supportive voices from the faith community have been (and will continue to be) crucial to efforts to reform our nation’s broken marijuana policies. In their public endorsements of marijuana policy reform, the religious leaders outlined above have demonstrated that their Christian values are very much compatible with MPP’s mission. It’s disappointing that Pepperdine would not allow one of their students to work on this very important issue — an issue so clearly related to values of mercy, compassion, justice, and the pursuit of truth.

* Interestingly, David Campbell, a lecturer in economics from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business, recently signed on to a letter of public support for Colorado’s Amendment 64 featuring over 100 college professors.

Pepperdine Shuts Down MPP Internship

September 12th, 2012

Last Monday, the State Policies department at MPP eagerly awaited the arrival of our new intern, who was slated to begin her semester-long internship with us that morning. We were puzzled when she didn’t show up and shocked when we learned the reason why — the deans of the internship program at Pepperdine University, where she is a student, would not approve an internship at MPP for academic credit because it was “not in keeping with the university mission and the student handbook.”

According to its website, the university’s mission is detailed as follows: “Pepperdine is a Christian university committed to the highest standards of academic excellence and Christian values, where students are strengthened for lives of purpose, service, and leadership.” The university’s affirmation statement goes on to say that, “As a Christian university, Pepperdine affirms that truth, having nothing to fear from investigation, should be pursued relentlessly in every discipline.”

In reading Pepperdine’s mission and vision statements, we at MPP considered our mission and that of Pepperdine as not only compatible but also complementary. MPP believes that the greatest harm associated with marijuana is prison, and we seek to reduce penalties for both the medical and non-medical use of marijuana in order to reduce that harm. We firmly believe that there is a disconnect between what the science says about marijuana use and what policies stand as law — laws which create far greater harms than those inflicted by the substance itself. In sum, an internship with MPP means engaging in very challenging and controversial work, undertaken for the greater good and the pursuit of truth.

Many prominent religious leaders and organizations support marijuana policy reform, along the spectrum of medical marijuana, decriminalization, and taxation and regulation. Seemingly, the Christian message is, or should be, one of mercy, humanity, and stopping the nation’s failed war on marijuana users.

In the spring of 2012, conservative Christian televangelist and founder of the Christian Coalition Pat Robertson spoke out in favor of ending marijuana prohibition, citing concerns about prison overpopulation and harsh sentences for non-violent offenders:

We’re locking up people that take a couple puffs of marijuana and, and the next thing they know they got ten years, they got mandatory sentences. And these judges they say, they throw up their hands and say ‘there’s nothing we can do there’s mandatory sentences.’ We got to take a look at what we’re considering crimes and that’s, that’s one of them. I mean I’m, I’m not exactly for the use of drugs, don’t, don’t get me wrong, but I just believe that criminalizing marijuana – criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of, of pot and that kind of thing – I mean it’s costing us a fortune and it’s ruining young people! Young people go into prisons . . . as youths and they come out as hardened criminals. It’s not a good thing.

Robertson went on to endorse taxation and regulation initiatives that will appear on two states’ November 2012 ballots, Amendment 64 in Colorado* and I-502 in Washington, both of which would end criminal penalties for adult marijuana use and treat marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. More recently, several African-American clergy members endorsed Washington’s I-502, noting the harms of marijuana prohibition and the racially disproportionate nature of its enforcement.

When MPP led a taxation and regulation ballot initiative in Nevada in 2006, at least 33 clergy members endorsed the measure. In fact, many religious leaders oppose our current marijuana policies specifically for faith-related reasons. As the Rev. David Scheuneman, a Unitarian Universalist community minister in Las Vegas, noted: “One of the roles of religion is to point out hypocrisy in society. By any means, marijuana is less dangerous to individuals and society than alcohol.”

Supportive voices from the faith community have been (and will continue to be) crucial to efforts to reform our nation’s broken marijuana policies. In their public endorsements of marijuana policy reform, the religious leaders outlined above have demonstrated that their Christian values are very much compatible with MPP’s mission. It’s disappointing that Pepperdine would not allow one of their students to work on this very important issue — an issue so clearly related to values of mercy, compassion, justice, and the pursuit of truth.

* Interestingly, David Campbell, a lecturer in economics from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business, recently signed on to a letter of public support for Colorado’s Amendment 64 featuring over 100 college professors.