Tuesday's election had several marijuana-related issues, and while the good folks at the Marijuana Policy Project remain relentlessly upbeat, the results were a little discouraging.
In South Dakota, which was passing a referendum to reverse a law passed by the legislature to make abortion virtually illegal, voters were not quite ready for medical marijuana. They rejected a ballot measure to authorize the medical use of marijuana by a narrow 52-48 percent margin. To be sure, Measure 4 faced intense opposition from the White House, the state attorney general and most of the state's political establishment. The pro campaign was not very well funded, so in a way coming this close is heartening. But medical marijuana initiatives have succeeded in other states, even against stiff opposition.
Fortunately, in the 11 states that have authorized the medical use of marijuana, polls still show strong support for the laws.
MPP supported an initiative in Nevada to permit the manufacture, distribution and sale of marijuana to adults 21 or older. It failed, 56-44, but for 44 percent of voters in any state to endorse outright legalization is encouraging. In Colorado local activists put Amendment 44 on the ballot to allow possesssion of up to one ounce. It lost 60-40. Again, 40 percent is impressive, but it's still a loss.
On the other hand, more modest proposals did rather better. Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Santa Monica in California approved measures to make marijuana possession the lowest law enforcement priority (something San Francisco did more than a decade ago -- buy my book for details), as did Missoula County in Montana and Eureka Springs, Arkansas. And several districts in Massachusetts approved non-binding policy statements from voters to permit possession of up to one ounce or possession for medical purposes with a doctor's recommendation.
MPP also points out that Nancy Pelosi, the incoming Speaker of the House, has been a backer of the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which would order the feds not to go after patients in states with medical marijuana laws. And 20 active medical marijuana opponents in the House were defeated.
Maybe not so disappointing after all, but I would have loved to see success in South Dakota.