WASHINGTON -- November 3 -- Proposals to reform marijuana laws racked up record-setting vote totals across the country Tuesday, leaving reformers cheering despite a few setbacks.
Montana voters approved a medical marijuana measure, Initiative 148, by an overwhelming 62% to 38%, eclipsing the previous record for any state's first vote on a medical marijuana initiative, the 61% support received by a medical marijuana measure in Maine in 1999.
In Alaska, Measure 2 scored the highest vote percentage ever achieved by a statewide proposal to abolish marijuana prohibition entirely and replace it with a system of regulation. With 43% of the vote, Measure 2 outpolled previous attempts in Alaska, Nevada, California, and Oregon -- none of which received more than 41% of the vote.
Efforts to replace prohibition with regulation got a huge boost from Oakland voters, who approved Measure Z by 64% to 36%. The measure commits the city of Oakland to supporting the taxation and regulation of marijuana in California and makes personal marijuana offenses the lowest priority for Oakland law enforcement.
In Ann Arbor, Michigan, voters overwhelmingly passed a local medical marijuana initiative, Measure C, 74% to 26%. In August, Detroit voters passed a similar measure by a 60% to 40% margin.
Voters in Columbia, Missouri, gave big wins to two separate reforms: A medical marijuana proposal, Proposition 1, passed by 69% to 31%; and Proposition 2, which replaces jail time with a maximum $250 fine for marijuana possession, also received a solid endorsement with 61% of the vote.
With advocates gearing up to lobby for medical marijuana bills in legislatures around the country next year, Vermont voters showed officeholders the danger of opposing such reforms. Vermonters handed stunning defeats to three leading opponents of that state's medical marijuana law-passed by the legislature earlier this year after a
contentious, three-year battle. MPP, which led the campaign to pass the law, funded an extensive grassroots campaign aimed primarily at defeating legislators who opposed the measure and backing those who had supported it. The campaign included voter identification, direct mail, and an aggressive get-out-the-vote effort staffed by a large network of in-state volunteers.
State Rep. Spike Robinson (R-Chittenden 4) lost to Democratic challenger Denise Barnard, 57% to 43%; Rep. Ruth Towne (R-Washington 3-3) was upset by Democrat Steve Green, 52% to 48%; and Rep. Nancy Sheltra (R-Orleans 1) lost her seat to Progressive Winston Dowland by 14 votes. The results shifted control of the Vermont House of Representatives to the Democrats-viewed by medical marijuana supporters as a positive development due to the unrelenting hostility of the House GOP leadership during last year's session.
MPP also supported two incumbents whose seats were in jeopardy: State Reps. Floyd Nease (D-Lamoille 3) and Steven Maier (D-Addison 1), both of whom won reelection by comfortable margins.
Massachusetts voters passed 12 of 12 advisory referenda on marijuana policy reform: five in support of medical marijuana, six in support of making marijuana a civil offense similar to a traffic ticket, and one in support of taxing and regulating marijuana.
Two of Tuesday's results were disappointing to reformers. Oregon voters defeated Measure 33, which would have allowed state-regulated medical marijuana dispensaries and increased the amount of medical marijuana patients may possess. In Berkeley, California, uncertainty remained about Measure R, which would facilitate the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries. As of Wednesday morning the measure was trailing narrowly, but with enough absentee ballots still left to
be counted to put the measure over the top.
"Election Day was a great day for marijuana policy reform," said Rob Kampia, executive director of MPP. "The passage of the initiative in Montana makes it the 10th state to allow patients to use, possess, and grow their own marijuana for medical purposes. Voters in at least 16 of 17 cities or districts passed medical marijuana or broader
marijuana policy reform measures. And we wrested control of the Vermont House of Representatives from the Republicans, who watered down and nearly killed our medical marijuana bill earlier this year," referring to the Vermont medical marijuana law.
The 10 states that have medical marijuana laws are Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.
"Other than in Alaska, the only other marijuana policy reform measures to be defeated were in Oregon and possibly Berkeley, and both of those initiatives would have radically expanded already- existing medical marijuana laws by authorizing the sale of marijuana," said Kampia. "The lesson of Election Day is that moderate medical
marijuana initiatives on the local and state levels always pass, local initiatives to roll back penalties for recreational marijuana users were also universally passed, and we just broke the all-time record of support for any statewide measure to end marijuana prohibition," he said, referring to the Alaska initiative.
MPP spent more than $2,000,000 on the Alaska, Montana, and Oregon initiative campaigns, as well as providing more than $200,000 to activists who ran the local initiative campaigns in California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Missouri.
With more than 17,000 members and 157,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. For more information, please visit Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications, 202-543-7972 or 415-668-6403. For more information, please visit www.MarijuanaPolicy.org