[Friday morning update!] In California, voters decided 46 percent to 54 percent, against Prop. 19, which sought to legalize the adult possession of limited quantities of marijuana in private, and to allow for local governments to regulate its commercial production and retail distribution. The 46+ percent (3,471,308 million Californians) voting ‘yes’ on Prop. 19 marks the greatest percentage of citizen support ever recorded on a statewide marijuana legalization effort.
Commenting on the vote, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said that marijuana legalization is no longer a matter of ‘if,’ but a matter of ‘when.’
“Social change doesn’t happen overnight, and in this case we are advocating for the repeal of a criminal policy that has existed for over 70 years federally and for nearly 100 years in California,” he said. “We are taking on the establishment and those who have vested interests in maintaining this longstanding failed policy. Yet, despite these odds, we have momentum and an unparalleled coalition of supporters – from law enforcement personnel, to civil rights groups, to organized labor, to lawyers, clergy, and public health professionals. In just a few short months, this campaign moved public opinion forward nationally, and led to the signing of historic legislation here in California that will end the arrest and prosecution of tens of thousands of minor marijuana offenders.”
He continued: “Throughout this campaign, even our opponents conceded that America’s present marijuana prohibition is a failure. They recognize that the question now isn’t ‘Should be legalize and regulate marijuana,’ but ‘How should we legalize and regulate marijuana?’”
He concluded: “In the near future there will be a slew of other states deciding on measures similar to Prop. 19 in their state houses and at the ballot box. And no doubt here in California, lawmakers in 2011 will once again be debating this issue, as will the voters in 2012.”
Backers of the measure have already announced plans for a similar campaign in 2012.
In Arizona, voters are narrowly against Proposition 203, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, which would permit state-registered patients to obtain cannabis legally from licensed facilities. But the gap is closing. As of Friday morning, the the race still remains too close to call, with Prop. 203 is trailing by less than 4,000 votes. With as many as 300,000 ballots and provisional ballots left to be counted, it could be several more days before election officials make an official decision. The proposal is sponsored by the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, an affiliate of the Marijuana Policy Project. Learn more about Proposition 203 here: http://stoparrestingpatients.org/home/.
In South Dakota, voters decided against Measure 13, the South Dakota Safe Access Act, which sought to exempt state criminal penalties for state-authorized patients who possessed marijuana. South Dakota voters had previously rejected a similar proposal in 2006. It is the only state where voters have ever decided against a medical marijuana legalization initiative.
In Oregon, voters decided against Measure 74, The Oregon Regulate Medical Marijuana Supply System Act of 2010, which sought to create state-licensed not-for-profit facilities to assist in the production and distribution of marijuana to qualified patients. Oregon voters initially authorized the physician-authorized use of marijuana in 1998. Several states, including Colorado, New Mexico, and Maine, have enacted statewide regulations licensing the production and dispensing of medical cannabis.
In other election developments that are pertinent to marijuana law reformers, California Democrat Kamala Harris is still narrowly leading Republican Steven Cooley for the office of state Attorney General. As of Friday morning, Harris is leading Cooley by less than one tenth of one percentage point (some 9,000 total votes) with 100 percent of precincts reporting. Yet with over two million ballots still left to count, The L.A. Times today reports, “With such a slim gap, the race for California’s top law enforcement office remained too close to call, and a clear winner may not emerge for days or even weeks.” Cooley is opposed by many marijuana reform organizations, including Americans for Safe Access, for his public opposition to medical marijuana, and his contention that any retail sale of medical cannabis is in violation of state law.
Also, in California, voters approved citywide ordinances in Albany (Measure Q), Berkeley (Measure S), La Puente (Prop. M), Oakland (Measure V), Rancho Cordova (Measure O), Richmond, Sacramento (Measure C), San Jose (Measure U), Stockton (Measure I) to impose new taxes on medical marijuana sales and/or production and businesses licenses. California NORML, along with several other reform groups, specifically opposed the Rancho Cordova measure as an excessive penalty on medical cannabis growers. Groups were divided in their support of many of the other local proposals.
Voters in Berkeley also approved a separate ordinance (Measure T) to permit a fourth medical marijuana dispensary in the city and reconstitute the city’s Medical Marijuana Commission Voters in Morro Bay and Santa Barbara rejected proposed municipal bans on dispensaries.
New Mexico voters elected Republican Susan Martinez to be the state’s next Governor. While campaigning for the office, Martinez voiced opposition to the state’s medical cannabis law, which since 2007 has allowed the state Department of Health to authorize medical marijuana users and third party, not-for-profit providers.
In Vermont, Democrat Peter Shumlin narrowly leads in the Governor’s race, with 91 percent of precincts reporting. While serving as state senator, Shumlin has been an advocate for both medical marijuana and decriminalization.
Connecticut voters have narrowly elected Democrat Dan Malloy for Governor. However, as of Friday morning, his Republican challenger Tom Foley appears ready to legally challenge the vote count. Malloy reportedly supports decriminalizing marijuana for adults, and also supports the legalization of medical cannabis. Malloy’s predecessor, Republican M. Jodi Rell, vetoed legislation in 2007 that would have allowed for the legal use of marijuana by those authorized by their physician.
In Massachusetts, voters in over 70 cities and towns decided favorably on non-binding public policy questions regarding the taxation of the adult use of marijuana and the legalization of the physician-supervised use of medical cannabis. Approximately 13 percent of the state’s registered voters weighed in on the questions.
Finally, Dane County (Madison), Wisconsin voters resoundingly backed a non-binding local initiative that asked, “Should the Wisconsin Legislature enact legislation allowing residents with debilitating medical conditions to acquire and possess marijuana for medical purposes if supported by their physician?” Seventy-five percent of voters decided ‘yes’ on the measure. In recent years, Wisconsin has been a highly contested battleground state in the fight for medical cannabis access.