Medical Marijuana||Tax and Regulate

Oregon Dispensary Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot

The signature count is in, and it’s official!

In November, Oregon voters will have an opportunity to vote on a measure that would improve access for medical marijuana patients by allowing the creation of nonprofit, state-regulated medical marijuana dispensaries. The official name for the ballot question will be Measure 28.

This positive news expands the number of local elections this year that will have marijuana-related questions on the ballot. To review:

  • In California, voters will consider Proposition 19, which would make it legal for adults 21 and over to use and grow marijuana for personal use, as well as allow local governments to tax and regulate the drug.
  • In South Dakota and Arizona, voters will have a chance to add their states to the list of those with effective medical marijuana laws, potentially bringing the total number nationwide to 16 (plus the District of Columbia).
  • And in Detroit, voters will decide whether to make it legal for adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana in the city.

Most polling so far has been very encouraging. Be sure to go out and vote if you live in one of these states. Everyone else, tune-in for the results on November 2!

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Prohibition

New Report Shows Marijuana Arrests Unfairly Target Blacks

On the same day that the California NAACP endorsed that state’s ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition (now officially named Proposition 19), our allies at the Drug Policy Alliance released a new study that shines a light on the systemic racial bias behind marijuana arrests taking place all across California.

Among the report’s findings:

  • “In every one of the 25 largest counties in California, blacks are arrested for marijuana possession at higher rates than whites, typically at double, triple or even quadruple the rate of whites,” even though “U.S. government studies consistently find that young blacks use marijuana at lower rates than young whites.”
  • “In Los Angeles County, with nearly ten million residents and over a quarter of California’s population, blacks are arrested at over triple the rate of whites. Blacks are less than 10 percent of L.A. County’s population, but they are 30 percent of the people arrested for marijuana possession.”
  • “Police in other California counties, even those with relatively few blacks or relatively low rates of marijuana arrests, still arrest blacks at much higher rates than whites. African Americans are arrested for marijuana possession at nearly three times the rate of whites in Solano County, and at three to four times the rate of whites in Sonoma, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco counties.”

The report, written by Prof. Harry Levine of Queens College, finds this overwhelming racial bias to be a “system-wide phenomenon” and not just the result of a handful of racist cops. That’s because most narcotics officers are assigned to patrol so-called “high-crime” neighborhoods that are disproportionately low-income and minority. In those neighborhoods—as in nearly all neighborhoods—the most likely, or easiest arrest an officer can make is for marijuana possession. If we want to end this racial bias, we need to end the laws that allow it to occur. Come November, California voters will have an opportunity to do just that.

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Medical Marijuana

Marijuana Initiatives Receive Big Endorsements in California, Washington State

In another example of marijuana policy reform’s growing approval by the mainstream political establishment, this week two major state-level political organizations gave their backing to local initiatives to end marijuana prohibition.

Citing inherent racism in the government’s war on marijuana, the California state chapter of the NAACP announced its support for the Tax Cannabis initiative, which will appear on the California ballot this November.

Meanwhile, the Washington state Democratic Party voted by an overwhelming 314-185 margin to endorse a proposed legalization initiative by Sensible Washington, which has not yet qualified for the ballot.

As more and more influential political forces oppose the doomed philosophy of prohibition and embrace the sensible path of reform, the potential for major electoral victories in 2010 and 2012 seems more promising than ever before.

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Tax and Regulate

Teachers Union Head Supports Marijuana Regulation

The campaign to end marijuana prohibition received a noteworthy endorsement last week, when the head of the second-largest teachers union in the country said that she supports this year’s ballot initiative in California to regulate marijuana.

Randi Weingarten, president of the 856,000-member American Federation of Teachers, told HBO’s “Real Time” host, Bill Maher, that “everything in moderation is pretty much fine.”

“When something becomes a forbidden fruit,” the 52-year-old told Maher, “you have to spend a whole lot of time making sure that, when you say no, people don’t think you mean yes.”

In another encouraging sign of the growing support for improving our nation’s marijuana laws, last week more than 90 percent of readers at the progressive political blog FireDogLake said they wanted to see that site “get involved” in marijuana policy reform.

Writes FDL editor Jane Hamsher:

“Our audience overwhelmingly believes that the [m]arijuana legalization initiatives are very important, and I think FDL can play a role in helping people to understand what’s at stake, and push back against the false arguments being advanced to perpetuate a [dysfunctional] status quo.”

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