Marijuana Initiatives Up in Smoke
By Jennifer Boyter, CSG Associate Director of Policy
California voters soundly defeated Proposition 19, which would have allowed people 21 and older to possess, grow and transport marijuana for their personal use.
It would also have permitted cities and counties to decide whether to regulate and tax the commercial production and sale of the drug, possibly creating a system of “wet” and “dry” counties for marijuana, similar to those that exist with alcohol laws. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, the measure was defeated, 53.8 percent to 46.2 percent.
Despite the defeat in California, marijuana legalization proponents are hopeful. Public opinion polls in the state consistently found that a majority of residents favored legalizing the drug. The defeat of Proposition 19 may be a response to concerns about specific provisions in the initiative or to the federal government’s threats to block it.
Marijuana is also already significantly decriminalized in the state. Last month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation that reduces simple possession of the drug from a misdemeanor to an infraction with a $100 fine—similar to a traffic citation.
Medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot in three states also fared badly.
Oregon voters rejected Measure 74, which would have expanded the state’s existing medical marijuana program by allowing privately run marijuana dispensaries to sell cannabis to medical marijuana cardholders across the state. It also would have permitted for-profit state-licensed marijuana growers to supply those dispensaries. With some votes yet to be counted, the measure is losing by a count of 57 percent to 43 percent.
South Dakota voters soundly defeated Measure 13, which would have created a restrictive medical marijuana program in the state. Under the measure, people suffering from certain “debilitating medical conditions” would be able to receive a recommendation for medical marijuana from a physician. They would then register with the state and be able to obtain medical marijuana from state-registered “caregivers.” Unofficial results were 37 percent in favor, with 63 percent opposed to the measure.
An Arizona measure, Proposition 203, is trailing in a very tight race, with 49.7 percent of the vote to 50.3 percent opposed in official results. The measure would have allowed people with a doctor’s recommendation to receive 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks from state-licensed dispensaries.