Marijuana reform votes mixed
by Liz Highleyman
Marijuana reform measures fared well in Michigan and Massachusetts on Tuesday, November 4, but a California measure that would have reduced penalties for possession of a small amount of pot was defeated by a substantial margin.
In Michigan, voters approved Proposal 1, the state's medical marijuana initiative, by a margin of 63 percent to 37 percent.
Seriously ill patients with a physician's recommendation who register under the new law will be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis without facing arrest. Patients, or their designated caregivers, will also be permitted to grow up to 12 plants in a secure indoor facility. The initiative is scheduled to go into effect in early December, and the state health department will have 120 days to issue regulations for a medical marijuana registry.
The win makes Michigan the 13th state to allow the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, and nearly 25 percent of the U.S. population now lives in a state with a medical marijuana law, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, which helped fund the Proposal 1 campaign. Eight of these states passed laws by voter initiative – starting with California's Proposition 215 in 1996 – while the remainder went through state legislatures.
"Michigan voters just dealt a fatal blow to the federal government's cruel, dishonest war on medical marijuana and sent a stunning message to the new presidential administration and Congress," said MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia. "One in four Americans now live in a medical marijuana state, and the federal government has no business fighting a war against a quarter of our citizens."
Opponents warned that the proposal could result in an explosion of "pot shops," pointing to the proliferation of medical cannabis dispensaries in California before several localities, including San Francisco, took measures to bring them under stricter control.
In Massachusetts, voters overwhelmingly approved Question 2, a decriminalization initiative that will substitute a civil violation and fine – similar to a traffic ticket – for criminal penalties for possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana.
"Tonight's results represent a sea change," said Kampia. "Voters have spectacularly rejected eight years of the most intense government war on marijuana since the days of Reefer Madness ."
But in California, voters soundly defeated Proposition 5, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act, by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent. In addition to changing sentencing guidelines for non-violent drug offenses and expanding treatment and rehabilitation programs, the measure would have reduced penalties for possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana.