Marijuana Ballot Measures Pass in Three States
Voters in Colorado and Nevada cast their ballots for whether to allow the medical use of marijuana, and residents in Alaska and Mendocino County, Calif., determined whether to legalize the plant for general use. Failed Amnesty In Alaska, 61% of the voting public cast a vote against Ballot Measure 5, which would have relegalized the drug, banned in 1990, and removed civil and criminal penalties for persons 18 years or older who use marijuana or other hemp products. Thirty-nine percent of voters supported the measure, with 88% of precincts responding. Measure 5 would have allowed marijuana to be regulated like an alcoholic beverage, permitted physicians to prescribe it and also would have granted amnesty to those previously convicted of marijuana crimes. Prescription for Distribution? In Colorado, 54% of voters were in favor of Amendment 20, which permits the medical use of marijuana for persons suffering from debilitating medical conditions such as AIDS, while 46% opposed the measure with 99% of precincts responding (CNN.com, 11/8). Physicians will be able to prescribe marijuana to patients who are in a database -- to be created by a state agency -- although the distribution of marijuana will remain illegal. Julie Roche, campaign director for Coloradans for Medical Rights, said that the distribution issue may be up to the Legislature to decide (Radford, Colorado Springs Gazette, 11/8). U.S. Attorney Tom Strickland said that his office would continue to enforce federal laws that classify marijuana possession as a crime, although he noted that the possession of small amounts of the drug would most likely not be prosecuted (Flynn, Denver Rocky Mountain News, 11/8). Permission to Possess In Nevada, 65% of voters favored Question 9, the proposed amendment of the state Constitution to permit the possession and use of marijuana with a physician's recommendation for the treatment of certain illnesses. Thirty-five percent voted against the measure with 100% of precincts responding (CNN.com, 11/8). 'Tilling New Ground' in California In addition, California voters approved two ballot initiatives concerning the use of marijuana. Proposition 36, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, intended to enhance public safety by reducing drug-related crime and providing community-based substance abuse treatment programs for non-violent defendants charged with simple drug possession or drug use offenses, was approved by 60% of voters and opposed by 40% (Keith, Associated Press, 11/8). Meanwhile, in Mendocino County Measure G -- approved 58% to 42% -- will allow county residents to grow 25 pot plants each. Although federal and state laws will still apply, the county has "tilled new ground," becoming the first community to sanction growing marijuana (Pritchard, Associated Press, 11/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.