Source: Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)
Author: Robert Kampia
Published: Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Oregonian
Contact: [email protected]
However anyone feels about the results of the presidential race, Nov. 2 was a banner day for marijuana policy reform. Nationwide, 17 of 20 initiatives won, including a massive victory for medical marijuana in Montana.
Montanans, by a whopping 62 percent to 38 percent, made their state the 10th to pass a medical marijuana law. Not only did this continue the unbroken winning streak for initiatives allowing medical use of marijuana, it also was the biggest margin of victory in any first-time vote on a statewide medical marijuana measure anywhere.
Indeed, many voters who supported Montana's ban on same-sex marriage (which passed with 67 percent of the vote) also supported protecting medical marijuana patients. Clearly, a lot of conservative voters think it is wrong to send patients to jail for using medical marijuana.
In Alaska, although an initiative to replace marijuana prohibition with a system of regulation failed, the 43 percent support that measure received was the all-time highest vote percentage ever recorded for a statewide marijuana regulation or "legalization" initiative. There have been only four other such initiatives in the history of the country -- in Alaska, California, Nevada and Oregon -- and the previous record-holder was Alaska's 59 percent to 41 percent loss in 2000. None of the others even broke 40 percent.
In Oakland, Calif., voters put the city on record in support of taxation and regulation of marijuana and made enforcement of personal marijuana offenses the lowest priority for local police, by an overwhelming 65 percent to 35 percent. Around the country, 17 local marijuana reform initiatives appeared on city or legislative district ballots, and 16 passed. These included a medical marijuana proposal in Ann Arbor, Mich., and two measures in Columbia, Mo. -- one to permit medical use and another to end the threat of arrest and jail for any misdemeanor marijuana possession charge.
All racked up overwhelming margins, with the Ann Arbor measure passing 3-to-1.
Perhaps the most telling results of all came from Vermont, where medical marijuana advocates ousted three openly hostile state representatives and protected all three supportive incumbents who were in tight races. The opponents had nearly blocked passage of Vermont's medical marijuana law last spring and led efforts to weaken it. Their defeat flipped the Vermont House of Representatives from Republican to Democratic control, sending a strong message to politicians in Vermont and elsewhere that opposing medical marijuana legislation is bad for their political health.
Of course, there were disappointments. Besides the Alaska loss, Oregon voters defeated an initiative to strengthen and expand the state's existing medical marijuana law.
Nevertheless, Nov. 2 was a good day for anyone who supports marijuana laws based on reason, science and compassion. We hope President Bush is paying close attention to our numerous victories -- especially in Montana, where Bush won 59 percent of the vote, but medical marijuana won 62 percent.
The president's strongest supporters also support protecting medical marijuana patients, and they don't want the federal government telling their doctors how to practice medicine. It's time for the president to finally keep his 2000 campaign pledge to let states decide the medical marijuana issue "as they so choose," without fear of federal agents raiding and arresting the seriously ill.
Robert Kampia is executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, which sponsored Montana's medical marijuana initiative and supported marijuana reform initiatives nationwide.
Related Articles & Web Site:
Marijuana Policy Project
Drugs and The Nation
A Good Day for Intolerance