For some time now, growing numbers of aging Baby Boomers (and some of their offspring) have been beating the drum for legalization of marijuana, arguing that decriminalizing what may be America’s largest “cash crop” could fill depleted state tax revenue coffers and even spur economic development.
Voters in four states have spoken this week and they beg to differ.
Weed afficionados believed they had their best chance of outright legalization of pot this year in California, home of Haight-Ashbury, birthplace of the late ‘60s hippie phenomenon. California’s Proposition 19 on the Nov. 3 ballot would have allowed the legal cultivation, sale, and possession of marijuana for “recreational” as well as medical use.
Unfortunately for the Left Coast pothead community, an overwhelming majority of California voters rejected Proposition 19. So much for “California dreaming.”
Perhaps even more surprising was the negative vote in three other states to legalize the sale and use of medical marijuana, which already has been embraced by 14 states in the U.S. Arizona, South Dakota and Oregon all decided they don’t want to be number 15 on the medical marijuana bandwagon.
Arizona’s Proposition 203 nearly squeaked in, failing by 50.25 percent to 49.25 percent, or less than 6,000 votes. Oregon’s Measure 74 to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries also went down to defeat, by a healthier margin.
South Dakota voters trounced a measure to allow patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions legal access to marijuana—nearly 65 percent of voters opposed the measure, while 35 percent supported it. A similar effort went up in smoke in South Dakota four years ago, but the margin in favor at that time reached 48 percent. Supporters of Initiated Measure 13 argued in vain that legalization for medical use was an issue of compassion for those dealing with the pain and muscle spasms of multiple sclerosis or the debilitating nausea that can accompany chemotherapy for cancer.
It is not known at this time whether the surge of voter opposition to decriminalization of even small amounts of medical marijuana also will put the brakes on partial legalization initiatives currently moving through state legislatures in Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
We suspect this backlash is a reaction to the explosion of marijuana cultivation in California since medical marijuana was legalized there more than a decade ago and the fact that more than 200,000 Californians currently are walking around with “prescriptions” for the herb, which can be obtained for just about any medical excuse, including stress.
City officials in Denver, CO recently expressed concern about the proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries in their metropolitan area since the drug was legalized in Colorado for medical use in 2000. In 2007, voters in Denver by a 57 to 43 percent margin also authorized city police officers to make enforcement of pot possession statutes a “low priority” in cases involving less than an ounce of weed.
As we reported in this space in February, the growing number of medical marijuana outlets in Colorado’s capital prompted Denver City Councilwoman Carol Boignon to write an Op-Ed column in the Colorado Statesman warning about the dangers of treating pot as an economic development tool. Here’s an excerpt:
“More than 400 medical marijuana dispensaries have applied for use permits in Denver, most of them in the last two and a half months. Constituents on all sides of the issue have contacted me: patients depending on marijuana to ease their illnesses, caregivers seeking to provide a service, and deeply concerned residents trying to protect their neighborhoods from crime and their children from harm.”
Based on yesterday’s returns, it appears that Councilwoman Boignon’s concerns are beginning to resonate nationwide.
However–and we don’t know if this is a consolation prize for disgruntled pot smokers–we can report that voters in Massachusetts threw a bone to some practitioners of “recreational” substance abuse on Tuesday: They narrowly voted to repeal a year-old sales tax on alcohol.