THE 7 STATE BALLOT PROPOSITIONS AND PROPOSALS
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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #385 - Tuesday, 30 September 2008
Voters in California, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Michigan will all vote Tuesday, November 4th on issues - a total of seven - which will if passed change laws which impact those arrested for the use of currently illegal drugs. The following highlights these issues.
PROPOSITION 5, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act (NORA) - This measure (1) expands drug treatment diversion programs for criminal offenders, (2) modifies parole supervision procedures and expands prison and parole rehabilitation programs, (3) allows inmates to earn additional time off their prison sentences for participation and performance in rehabilitation programs, (4) reduces certain penalties for marijuana possession, and (5) makes miscellaneous changes to state law related mainly to state administration of rehabilitation and parole programs for offenders.
Perhaps the least understood Proposition 5 change is the marijuana possession change. Here is what California's nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) has published on the issue:
Change in Marijuana Possession Penalties
Current state law generally makes the possession of less than 28.5 grams of marijuana by either an adult or a minor a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $100 (plus other penalties and fines that can bring the total cost to as much as $370) but not jail. Possession of greater amounts of marijuana, or repeat offenses, can result in confinement in jail or a juvenile hall, greater fines, or both. Revenues generated from these fines (including the additional penalties) are distributed in accordance with state law to various specified state and county government programs.
Penalties for Marijuana Offenses Would Become Infraction
This measure would make the possession of less than 28.5 grams of marijuana by either an adult or a minor an infraction (similar to a traffic ticket) rather than a misdemeanor. Adults would be subject, as they are today, to a fine of up to $100. However, the additional penalties of any kind would be limited under this measure to an amount equal to the fine imposed. (For example, imposition of the maximum $100 fine could result in an additional $100 in penalties.) Persons under age 18 would no longer be subject to a fine for a first offense, but would be required to complete a drug education program. Also, under this measure, fines collected for marijuana possession would be deposited in a special fund to provide additional support of the new youth programs created by this measure.
The LAO analysis of Proposition 5 is at http://www.lao.ca.gov/ballot/2008/5_11_2008.aspx
Please see the YES on Prop. 5 website http://www.prop5yes.com/
The influential Orange County Register recently supported Proposition 5 in an editorial http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v08/n901/a06.html
PROPOSITION 6 - Makes some 30 changes to state criminal laws. The measure requires that Youthful Offender Block Grant funds--provided by the state to house, supervise, and provide various types of treatment services to juveniles--be distributed to county probation offices and eliminates existing provisions that permit these funds to be provided directly to drug treatment, mental health, or other county departments. Defines possession of methamphetamines as a felony - this crime currently can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony - but it does not change eligibility for some offenders for drug treatment diversion under Proposition 36.
The LAO analysis of Proposition 6 is at http://www.lao.ca.gov/ballot/2008/6_11_2008.aspx
PROPOSITION 9 - This measure amends the State Constitution and various state laws to (1) expand the legal rights of crime victims and the payment of restitution by criminal offenders, (2) restrict the early release of inmates, and (3) change the procedures for granting and revoking parole.
The LAO analysis of Proposition 9 is at http://www.lao.ca.gov/ballot/2008/9_11_2008.aspx
The Los Angeles Times recently opposed all three propositions in editorials http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v08/n895/a03.html
MASSACHUSETTS: QUESTION 2 - This proposed law would replace the criminal penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana with a new system of civil penalties, to be enforced by issuing citations, and would exclude information regarding this civil offense from the state's criminal record information system. Offenders age 18 or older would be subject to forfeiture of the marijuana plus a civil penalty of $100. Offenders under the age of 18 would be subject to the same forfeiture and, if they complete a drug awareness program within one year of the offense, the same $100 penalty.
Offenders under 18 and their parents or legal guardian would be notified of the offense and the option for the offender to complete a drug awareness program developed by the state Department of Youth Services. Such programs would include ten hours of community service and at least four hours of instruction or group discussion concerning the use and abuse of marijuana and other drugs and emphasizing early detection and prevention of substance abuse.
The penalty for offenders under 18 who fail to complete such a program within one year could be increased to as much as $1,000, unless the offender showed an inability to pay, an inability to participate in such a program, or the unavailability of such a program. Such an offender's parents could also be held liable for the increased penalty. Failure by an offender under 17 to complete such a program could also be a basis for a delinquency proceeding.
The proposed law would define possession of one ounce or less of marijuana as including possession of one ounce or less of tetrahydrocannibinol ("THC"), or having metabolized products of marijuana or THC in one's body.
Under the proposed law, possessing an ounce or less of marijuana could not be grounds for state or local government entities imposing any other penalty, sanction, or disqualification, such as denying student financial aid, public housing, public financial assistance including unemployment benefits, the right to operate a motor vehicle, or the opportunity to serve as a foster or adoptive parent. The proposed law would allow local ordinances or bylaws that prohibit the public use of marijuana, and would not affect existing laws, practices, or policies concerning operating a motor vehicle or taking other actions while under the influence of marijuana, unlawful possession of prescription forms of marijuana, or selling, manufacturing, or trafficking in marijuana.
The money received from the new civil penalties would go to the city or town where the offense occurred.
The YES on Question 2 website is at http://sensiblemarijuanapolicy.org/
Many, but not all, of the newspaper clippings about Question 2 may be found at http://www.mapinc.org/topic/Committee+for+Sensible+Marijuana+Policy
MICHIGAN: PROPOSAL 1: The proposed law would:
Permit physician approved use of marijuana by registered patients with debilitating medical conditions including cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, MS and other conditions as may be approved by the Department of Community Health.
Permit registered individuals to grow limited amounts of marijuana for qualifying patients in an enclosed, locked facility.
Require Department of Community Health to establish an identification card system for patients qualified to use marijuana and individuals qualified to grow marijuana.
Permit registered and unregistered patients and primary caregivers to assert medical reasons for using marijuana as a defense to any prosecution involving marijuana.
The YES on Proposal 1 website is at http://stoparrestingpatients.org/
Most, but not all, of the newspaper clippings about Proposal 1 may be found at http://www.mapinc.org/topic/Michigan+Coalition+for+Compassionate+Care
MEASURE 57 - Increases sentences for drug trafficking (methamphetamine, heroin, "ecstasy," cocaine), theft against elderly and specified repeat property and identity theft crimes; requires addiction treatment for certain offenders.
MEASURE 61 - Creates mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain theft, identity theft, forgery, drug, and burglary crimes.
Please see this website for additional details http://www.sos.state.or.us/elections/nov42008/meas.html
If both measures pass, the one with more votes becomes law. Most of the newspaper editorial page statements from Oregon newspapers have opposed both measures or recommended Measure 57 as the better choice.
Prepared by: Richard Lake, Senior Editor www.drugnews.org
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