Pubdate: Thu, 18 Oct 2012
Source: Buffalo News (NY)
Copyright: 2012 The Buffalo News
Author: Ronald Fraser
Note: Ronald Fraser, Ph.D., writes on public policy issues for the 
DKT Liberty Project.


New York voters may not have the opportunity to approve or reject 
ballot items on Nov. 6, but citizen lawmakers in six other states 
will vote up or down a variety of marijuana ballot initiatives that 
may, in the long run, have a major impact nationally and even here in New York.

* Medical marijuana: Voters in Massachusetts and Arkansas will decide 
if marijuana can be used for medical purposes with the advice of a 
licensed doctor. If passed, Massachusetts will join nearby states - 
Connecticut, Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island - where the drug is 
already used to ease pain caused by cancer and other serious conditions.

In Arkansas, the stakes are much higher. The state could become the 
first in the South to break down the medical marijuana barrier. If 
voters in Arkansas approve, other Southern states could very well 
follow in the coming years.

The third state with a medical marijuana ballot initiative, Montana, 
is a bit different. The State Legislature recently acted to remove 
parts of a 2004 citizen-approved medical marijuana law. The proposal 
on the ballot in November asks Montanans to repeal the Legislature's 
action and reinstate the law as originally enacted in 2004.

* Recreational marijuana: New York voters should also keep an eye on 
potentially trend-setting ballots in Colorado, Oregon and Washington 
state, where marijuana is currently legal for medical purposes. Now, 
in all three states, propositions to legalize and regulate the use of 
marijuana for any purpose will be decided by the people. Passage in 
just one of these states will surely set off a major expansion of the 
marijuana policy debate nationally and in New York.

Initiative supporters stress the potential benefits of legalizing the 
drug. In Colorado, Amendment 64 proposes a regulatory system for 
marijuana, much like that for alcohol products, and promises to 
reduce law enforcement costs and increase tax revenues.

Initiative Measure 502 in Washington will not only legalize and tax 
marijuana sales, it will also prohibit driving under the influence of the drug.

The purpose of the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act of 2012, according to its 
supporters, is to protect children and youths and increase public 
safety by regulating the sale of cannabis.

State-level ballot initiatives also provide a much-needed means for 
the people to challenge one-size-fits-all federal policies such as 
the federal ban on medical marijuana. Seventeen states and the 
District of Columbia now allow medical uses of marijuana - a direct 
rebuttal to federal laws that claim marijuana has no medicinal value. 
And, by inviting the voters into the decision-making process, ballot 
initiatives become important public education events.

The first state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana will 
become a closely watched policy experiment.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom