Voters all across the country will cast ballots tomorrow in elections that could alter the course of U.S. marijuana policy for years to come. Here are the 9 most important contests to watch for the movement to end marijuana prohibition:
- California: Proposition 19 would make marijuana legal for all adults – it represents the best chance to date for a single state to overturn the failure of marijuana prohibition and offer an alternative for others to follow. It would make it legal for all adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, as well as grow a 25-square-foot marijuana garden on their property. It would also allow localities to tax and regulate marijuana sales, but it remains unclear how the federal government would react if Prop 19 passes. Website: yeson19.org
- Arizona: Proposition 203, an MPP-backed initiative, would allow patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, and other life-threatening diseases to use marijuana with their doctor’s recommendation. Patients could purchase their medicine from tightly regulated, state-licensed dispensaries or grow their own if they live more than 25 miles from a clinic. Website: stoparrestingpatients.org
- Oregon: Measure 74 would expand the state’s existing medical marijuana law by authorizing regulated, state-licensed nonprofit clinics to provide improved patient access to their medicine. The system would generate an estimated $3 to $20 million a year for the state through taxes and fees. Website: measure74.com
- South Dakota: Measure 13 would allow patients suffering from cancer, AIDS and other serious ailments to use marijuana with a recommendation from their doctor. Patients could grow their own medicine or designate a caregiver to grow it for them. Website: sdcompassion.org
- Vermont: VOTE Peter Shumlin for governor. Shumlin (D), the state Senate pro tempore, played a major role in passing Vermont’s medical marijuana law in 2004, and has been a staunch advocate for marijuana decriminalization. MPP has spent years lobbying for a decriminalization law in Vermont. With Shumlin as governor, Vermont would be well poised to pass decriminalization and expand its medical marijuana law by authorizing licensed dispensaries. Website: www.shumlinforgovernor.com
- California: NOT Steve Cooley for attorney general. Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley (R) is a rabid anti-marijuana zealot who has falsely claimed that all medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal, and that he would continue to prosecute adults for marijuana crimes even if voters pass Proposition 19. If he wins the election for state attorney general, he will become the state’s top law enforcement official and could reverse years of progress toward saner marijuana laws in California. Website: notcooley.com
- New Mexico: NOT Susana Martinez for governor. Martinez (R), the leading candidate for governor, has said she will work to overturn New Mexico’s medical marijuana law if elected. New Mexico’s law enjoys wide popular support and is often described as the tightest-regulated law in the country. But Martinez believes federal law should trump a popular local law – despite the Obama administration’s promise of non-intervention in state medical marijuana laws. Website: donttakeawaymymedicine.org
- Connecticut: VOTE Dan Malloy for governor. Malloy (D) has said that he “absolutely” supports decriminalizing marijuana, as well as medical marijuana legislation that would protect seriously ill patients from arrest. Outgoing Gov. Jodi M. Rell vetoed medical marijuana legislation in 2007. If Malloy were elected governor, proponents would be given renewed hope for passing a medical marijuana law in Connecticut. Website: danmalloy.com
- Massachusetts: More than 70 local municipalities in Massachusetts will be voting on non-binding resolutions and public policy questions calling on the state government to pass medical marijuana or end marijuana prohibition entirely. These initiatives are a great opportunity for Massachusetts voters to send a strong message to their state lawmakers, as well as give local organizers a better sense of where things stand for future marijuana initiatives in Massachusetts. Website: masscann.org
You can find links to other MPP state voter guides at our state page.
Now -- if you haven't already -- go out and VOTE!
Responding to recent calls to shutter Los Angeles county's medical marijuana collectives, MPP commissioned a poll that found Angelenos overwhelmingly supportive of medical marijuana access in their community.
According to the survey, 74 percent of Los Angeles County voters support the state's medical marijuana law. 77 percent said that they prefer regulating L.A.-area medical marijuana facilities over closing them all down. Support for regulation crossed all demographic groups, including Republicans who favor regulation over wholesale closure by a 62 to 30 percent margin.
The poll also found that 54 percent of voters think marijuana should be made legal for adults over 21 and and its sales taxed and regulated like alcohol.
Hopefully these results will further demonstrate to the Los Angeles City Council and other elected officials that attacking the medical marijuana community is a no-win game in L.A. politics.
The poll -- conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research -- surveyed 625 regular voters in L.A. County. The questions and results by demographic breakdown can be downloaded here.
Just as federal medical marijuana policy appears to be moving toward sanity, some local officials in the nation's second largest city seem to be losing it altogether.
Earlier this month, I reported on Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley's decision to use resources prosecuting each of the area's medical marijuana collectives as common drug dealers -- even those operating within city or county guidelines. Now, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich joins Cooley in his fight against the popular and long-standing medical marijuana laws.
Trutanich is pressing the L.A. City Council to quickly adopt an ordinance effectively banning the sale of medical marijuana through storefront collectives. This uniquely draconian proposal is based on the false premise that California law doesn't allow collectives to accept money from members as reimbursement for their medical marijuana.
Just last year, the state's attorney general issued guidelines declaring that, while medical marijuana could not be sold for profit, it is perfectly legal to exchange money to cover the costs of its production and distribution. The guidelines clearly state, "Members also may reimburse the collective or cooperative for marijuana that has been allocated to them." Further, California law exempts certain medical marijuana-related activities from prosecution under laws that otherwise prohibit the sales of marijuana.
Bizarrely, the ordinance also doesn't allow any medical marijuana facility to operate within 1,000 feet of a "hospital or medical facility." Hmm... I thought that patient collectives were medical facilities.
Clearly medical marijuana collectives in Los Angeles are in need of some more controls (local patients and collective operators have been calling for regulations for years), and some of the facilities in the area are probably not operating in good faith compliance with the law. But the answer to this problem is not in a broad prohibitionist policy that's out of step with state law and a boon to underground drug dealers who would undoubtably fill the vacuum left once all the collectives are closed. The answer, as always, is in sound regulations which facilitate open and safe access to patients while addressing community concerns.
Stay tuned for more developments from the City of Angels. I'll be posting them here as they unfold.
The Los Angeles Times reports today that L.A. District Attorney Steve Cooley thinks California's medical marijuana collectives are breaking state law. Cooley vowed to prosecute all the medical marijuana facilities in his county, estimated to have nearly 1,000 medical marijuana collectives. Cooley can say that these collectives are illegal all he wants, but that doesn't make it true.
Last year, the state's attorney general issued a legal opinion that clearly stated that "a properly organized and operated collective or cooperative that dispenses medical marijuana through a storefront may be lawful under California law." Maybe Cooley didn't get the memo.
If Cooley is somehow successful in eliminating L.A.'s medical marijuana facilities, the effect would be disastrous for patients forced to find their medicine in the underground market and would be a boon to the violent drug cartels that often supply that market. Voters in Los Angeles -- who overwhelmingly support medical marijuana -- are probably scratching their heads trying to figure out why their district attorney wants to enrich criminal drug dealers at the expense of patients.
Cooley's priorities are dangerously misguided. Los Angeles County maintains a backlog of more than 3,000 untested rape kits (evidence collected from a sexual assault). This means that these rapes have been reported but are still not being investigated due to limited resources. I guess Cooley thinks law enforcement efforts would be better spent terrorizing seriously ill patients and the people who provide their legal medicine than solving violent crimes like sexual assault.