Voters Nationwide Embrace Marijuana Law Reform Proposals

Wednesday, 03 November 2004

Washington, DC: Voters nationwide approved numerous ballot proposals liberalizing marijuana laws, including a statewide measure in Montana legalizing the use of medicinal cannabis for medical purposes, and a citywide proposal in Oakland mandating police to make the prosecution of pot offenses the city's "lowest law enforcement priority."

While this year's election was not a clean sweep for marijuana law reform initiatives, voters backed the majority of proposals put before them, particularly on the municipal level.

In Oakland, California, 64 percent of voters approved Measure Z, which directs the Oakland Police Department to make the "investigation, citation, and arrest for private adult cannabis offenses the lowest law enforcement priority, effective immediately upon passage of this ordinance." Measure Z also mandates the city of Oakland "to tax and regulate the sale of cannabis for adult use, so as to keep it off the streets and away from children and to raise revenue for the city, as soon as possible under state law."

In Columbia, Missouri, voters backed a pair of measures seeking to liberalize local pot laws. Approximately 70 percent of voters approved The Missouri Medical Marijuana Initiative (Proposition 1), which amends the Columbia city criminal code so that "adults who obtain and use marijuana and/or marijuana paraphernalia for medical purposes pursuant to the recommendation of a physician shall not be subject to any arrest, prosecution, punishment, or sanction."

Six out of ten Columbia voters also approved The Missouri Smart Sentencing Initiative (Proposition 2), which amends the city criminal code to depenalize the possession of marijuana and/or paraphernalia to a fine-only offense.

In Michigan, an estimated 75 percent of voters in Ann Arbor approved Proposal C, the Ann Arbor Medical Marijuana Act, which directs the city to allow qualified patients to possess and cultivate marijuana for medicinal purposes under the authorization of their physician. Detroit voters endorsed a similar initiatives this past August.

In Montana, 63 percent of voters approved a similar statewide measure, I-148, which legalizes authorized patients to possess up to six marijuana plants and one usable ounce of marijuana to treat certain qualified medical conditions, including cancer, AIDS, and Multiple Sclerosis. Montana is the eleventh state to exempt medicinal marijuana patients from state criminal penalties, and is the seventh to do so via state initiative. Other states that have enacted laws protecting qualified patients who use marijuana include: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, OregonVermont and Washington.

In Massachusetts, voters in three state Senate and eight House districts overwhelmingly backed several non-binding "public policy questions" depenalizing the possession of marijuana for personal use, and legalizing the medical use of cannabis for patients who possess a doctor's authorization.

On the local level, only one marijuana law reform proposal - Berkeley, California's Measure R, which sought to replace the city's 10-plant medical cannabis limit with an amount in accordance with a patient's needs - appeared not to gain majority support from voters, though a final vote count is still pending.

At the state level, both Oregon's Measure 33, which sought to greatly expand the state's existing medicinal cannabis law, and Alaska's Measure 2, which sought to eliminate all criminal penalties on the adult possession and use of marijuana and encouraged the state legislature to establish a system to regulate marijuana "in a manner similar to alcohol or tobacco," failed to gain voter approval. Oregon voters rejected Measure 33 by a vote of 58 to 42 percent, while Alaskans voted against Measure 2 by a vote of 57 to 43 percent.

NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup said that the outcome of yesterday's ballot initiatives was generally positive. "What these results appear to be telling us is that Americans strongly support reforming America's marijuana laws, but that they prefer to do so incrementally," he said. "The results, once again, affirm that a majority of US citizens strongly back the legalization of medical marijuana for qualified patients, and that they don't want adults who use marijuana responsibly to face arrest or jail."

For more information, please contact Keith Stroup or Allen St. Pierre at (202) 483-5500.