Pubdate: Fri, 17 Nov 2006
Source: Austin Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2006 Austin Chronicle Corp.
Author: Jordan Smith
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Walters, John)



While election night saw voters call for sweeping changes in Congress,
drug-law reformers were handed a more mixed bag: Three statewide
marijuana-law reform initiatives tanked at the polls, while local
initiatives in 10 cities across the country sailed through to passage.
Notably, in Eureka Springs, Ark.; Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Santa
Monica, Calif.; and Missoula, Mont., voters approved municipal
initiatives to decriminalize and/or classify minor pot possession and
use by adults as the lowest priority for local police.

The Eureka Springs "Low Priority" initiative, which pulled in 64% of
the vote, was the first-ever marijuana-law reform measure to appear on
an Arkansas ballot.

On the statewide ballots, however, marijuana reform went -- forgive me
- -- up in smoke.

In Nevada, voters rejected ballot Question 7 -- the boldest of
marijuana initiatives -- which would have legalized the use and
possession of up to 1 oz. of marijuana by adults, created a
tax-and-regulate scheme with state-licensed pot shops, earmarked a
portion of revenue to fund rehab facilities, and stiffened penalties
for providing pot to a minor and for driving under the influence.

Bold, yes, but also fairly logical if, indeed, the goal of drug
control is to reduce easy access and to end the black market for the
substance. That's the goal embraced by many Q7 backers -- including a
network of state religious leaders, who came out in favor of the
initiative, and by the state's largest newspaper, the Las Vegas
Review-Journal, whose editorial board endorsed the measure.

But in the always bizarre and seemingly disconnected world of the
federal drug-prohibition whores in the White House Office of National
Drug Control Policy, any drug-law reform -- except in the direction of
the even more draconian -- is baaaad, even when the law in question,
like Q7, contemplates a way to more strictly control drug use. Indeed,
during a television appearance on a local Las Vegas morning program,
ONDCP head drug czar John Walters turned the point of Q7 on its ear,
claiming instead that the measure was nothing more than a "Drug Dealer
Protection Act." Now, exactly how that would work is completely
unclear; the law would only allow adults over 21 to purchase, at most,
an ounce of dope at a time from a state-regulated store -- in other
words, how any self-respecting drug dealer could possibly hope to stay
in business one state-regulated ounce at a time is a complete mystery,
especially when buyers could mosey their own butts down to the pot
store and do the same. Undaunted by logic, Walters plowed on, telling
his TV hostess that under the Q7 tax-and-regulate proposal, an adult
dealer could buy an ounce of dope and, without fear of arrest, walk
around town with "60 to 80" joints in his pocket, looking to sell 'em
- -- undoubtedly to kids! Aside from his apparent affinity for
hysterical flights of fancy, there's at least one thing Walters' TV
appearance made painfully clear: He's never rolled a joint -- at
least, by his 60-to-80-per-ounce rule, not a decent one. In the end,
however, just 44% voted for Q7; although backers note that's up six
points from 2002, when a similar initiative was on the ballot. As
such, it's a safe bet this one will make an encore appearance on a
future ballot.

In Colorado, statewide Amendment 44, which sought to "equalize"
penalties associated with pot and alcohol, earned just 40% of the
vote. As in Nevada, A44 backers, the grassroots group Safer
Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, faced a good dose of
drug-warrior "What about the children!" rhetoric, apparently
encouraged by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Back in September,
the Boulder Daily Camera got hold of a letter sent to politicos by
local DEA agent Michael Moore, from his DEA e-mail address, seeking to
hire a campaign manager for an A44 opposition group, reporting that
there was $10K available to spend on the effort.

The e-mail prompted SAFER Colorado campaign director Mason Tvert to
cry foul, arguing that the DEA was overstepping its bounds, possibly
in violation of federal law. At first, Denver DEA Special Agent in
Charge Jeff Sweetin said the $10K came from private donations, before
later proclaiming there was no money, at least not that he'd "ever
heard of." Later the DEA tried to scrub the story altogether, saying a
private individual sent out the letter using Moore's address without
his permission. Sure. Whatever.

Finally, voters in South Dakota narrowly defeated the election
season's only medi-pot initiative (officially, Initiated Measure 4),
by a 52%-48% margin.

While the ballot box defeats were surely disappointing to pot-law
reformers, there is, perhaps, hope alive with the changing of the
congressional guard in D.C. In a letter to supporters, Marijuana
Policy Project Director Rob Kampia noted that the change in leadership
will obviously mean the ouster of certain reform foes from key
committees and, perhaps, the rise to power of more open-minded
legislators -- including California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the presumptive
first female speaker of the House, who favors protecting the rights of
medi-pot patients. Indeed, the long languished federal medi-pot
patient protection bill may rise again.

Get "Reefer" online: In order to keep you up-to-date on the insanity
of the war on drugs, "Weed Watch" -- your source for drug war and drug
policy news has a new name -- "Reefer Madness" -- and an expanded
online presence. Be sure to check out the continually updated reefer
blog on the Chronicle Web site at
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake