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Medical Marijuana Initiatives Update


July-August 1998


A referendum (Proposition 300) affirming the Arizona Legislature's dismantling of the medical marijuana provision of the 1996 drug policy reform initiative (Proposition 200) will be on the November 1998 ballot in that state (see "Arizona Lawmakers Dismantle Proposition 200," NewsBriefs, May-June 1997).

The People Have Spoken, a group which opposes Proposition 300, asked a court to remove references to heroin, LSD and PCP from the publicity pamphlet mandated by state law for the election. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Howe ruled on July 31 that the official description of the initiative in the pamphlet appears to be an "advocacy document" because it only lists the drugs associated with the most serious abuse. The Legislative Council had included the references in a 9-0 vote because Proposition 200 allows for the medical use of any Schedule I substance. Howe ordered the Legislative Council to list the names of all 116 Schedule I drugs or list none at all. State lawmakers appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court, which ruled that the council's official analysis of Proposition 300 can be used for the publicity pamphlet (Mike McCloy, "Group Fights Listing of Drugs," Arizona Republic, July 30, 1998; Mike McCloy, "Lawmakers Rejected, Head for High Court," Arizona Republic, August 1, 1998; Mike McCloy, "Pot Backers Lose Prop. 300 Suit," Arizona Republic, August 5, 1998).

A second measure, called the Voter Protection Act, appears to have gained sufficient signatures to be placed on the ballot. The Voter Protection Act would amend the state constitution to require at least a three-fourths vote of the Legislature to amend initiatives passed by the voters and would prohibit the governor from vetoing such measures. Ironically, the measure is backed by Attorney General Grant Woods and Maricopa County (Phoenix) Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The measure responds to the Legislature's dismantling of 1996's Proposition 200. Supporters submitted about 245,000 signatures. "We got 245,000 signatures because people couldn't believe the Legislature was trying to do these things," said Richard Mahoney, a former Democratic Secretary of State and chairman of the initiative drive. Proposed constitutional amendments require 169,442 signatures to qualify for the ballot (Hal Mattern, "Nov. Ballot Has 15 Measures," Arizona Republic, July 3, 1998).

The People Have Spoken - 505 West Coolridge St., Phoenix, AZ 85013, Tel: (602) 222-6639.

Richard Mahoney - Chairman, Voter Protection Alliance, Tel: (602) 337-7189.


On August 6, the Colorado Secretary of State reported that a medical marijuana initiative filed by Coloradans for Medical Rights (CMR) failed to collect enough valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot. On July 7, CMR turned in 84,755 signatures. Based on a random sample of 5% of the signatures submitted, the Secretary of State estimated CMR collected only 47,960 valid signatures. 54,242 valid signatures were needed to qualify the measure (Colorado Citizens for Compassionate Cannabis, "CMR Medical Marijuana Initiative Falls Short in Colorado," Press Release, August 7, 1998).

Coloradans for Medical Rights - P.O. Box 18863, Denver, CO 80218, Tel: (303) 861-4224.


Petitioners for Initiative 59 (I-59) submitted approximately 32,000 signatures on July 6 to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics (BOE). 16,997 signatures (5% of registered voters) were required to qualify, as well as 5% in five of the city's eight wards. BOE set aside 4,641 signatures obtained by petitioner Tanya Robinson on the basis of a "discrepancy" with her address. During the petition drive Robinson had to move temporarily from her home to a women's shelter. On the petition sheets, she used her home address, which is her address on file with BOE. To assure the validity of the sheets she circulated, she noted the address of the women's shelter as well. In addition, BOE staff began disqualifying signatures from other circulators, and found with this analysis no more than 17,092 potentially valid signatures. Additionally, BOE plans to do a random check of the signatures. Of the first round "disqualification," I-59 found that at least one-third of the "disqualified" signatures were actually valid. The BOE even disqualified the signature of mayoral candidate Jeffrey Gildenhorn, alleging that it was illegible, and the signature of Steve Michael, recently deceased founder of the I-59 measure. BOE is not conceding error. On August 10, ACTUP-DC sued the BOE in Superior Court to get onto the ballot. They are represented by Matthew S. Watson, former DC Auditor and former General Counsel to BOE and by Alisa A. Wilkins.

Yes on 59 Campaign - 409 H Street, N.E., Suite 1, Washington, DC 20002-4335, Tel: (202) 547-9404, Fax: (202) 547-9458, Web: <>.


On July 28, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld rulings by a lower court and the Maine Secretary of State that Mainers for Medical Rights (MMR) failed to gather enough signatures to place a medical marijuana measure on the November a ballot (see "AMR's Maine Initiative Fails to Qualify for 1998 Vote," NewsBriefs, March-April 1998). MMR had challenged the state's constitutional requirement that petition circulators be residents and registered voters in the Maine. The group said it plans to petition for a similar ballot measure in 1999 (Jerry Harkavy, "Court Denies Appeal by Advocates of Medical Use of Marijuana," Associated Press, July 28, 1998).

Mainers for Medical Rights - Stephanie Hart, R.R. 4, Box 5375, Sidney, ME 04332 Tel: (207) 547-5031.


On August 3, Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller announced that a medical marijuana initiative -- originally disqualified for lacking just 43 signatures in two rural counties -- qualified for the November ballot. The secretary of state had previously reported that the measure did not qualify for the November ballot (Sean Whaley, "Marijuana Use Measure Not Gone to Pot," Las Vegas Review-Journal, August 4, 1998; Associated Press, "Medical Marijuana to Appear on Nevada Ballot," August 3, 1998).

The Nevada state constitution requires that at least 10% of the number of voters in the previous election in thirteen counties or more must sign a petition in order for an initiative to qualify for the state ballot. Originally, the secretary of state reported on July 13 that Nevadans for Medical Rights (NMR), which led the petition effort, came up seven signatures short in Lyon County, and 36 short in Nye County (Sean Whaley, "Marijuana Petition Falls Short in Two Counties; Appeals Possible," Las Vegas Sun, July 14, 1998).

On July 21, NMR appealed to the secretary of state to review the results in the two rural counties. Heller said his office found a mathematical error by Nye County in counting names, and improper rejection of some signatures in Nye and Lyon counties (Cy Ryan, "Pot Petition Appeals to Secretary of State," Las Vegas Sun, July 22, 1998).

On July 10, the Las Vegas Police Department Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) "exonerated" two Las Vegas police officers of a charge of infringing on the First Amendment rights of NMR petitioners. On May 22, police detained five NMR petitioners, who were attempting to gain signatures on Fremont Street for the medical marijuana initiative. The detention lasted one hour while the petitioners' backgrounds were checked. One petitioner, Amy Donaldson, said an officer twisted her hand and took her pen away when she tried to write down the officers' names and badge numbers. NMR, with the help of the ACLU, filed complaints of discourtesy and use of excessive force with internal affairs. Gary Peck, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada, criticized the IAB's investigation as "a sham," adding that the police officers had no right to detain the petitioners and that they threatened the petitioners with arrest if they ever returned to Fremont Street (Associated Press, "Officers Cleared of Infringing on First Amendment Rights," Las Vegas Sun, July 11, 1998).

Dan Hart, Nevadans for Medical Rights - 1412 S. Jones Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89102, Tel: (702) 259-0300, Fax: (702) 259-7708, E-mail: <>.

Las Vegas Police Department Internal Affairs Bureau - 714 S. 4th Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101, Tel: (702) 229-3422, Fax: (702) 382-0199.


Oregon officials announced on July 10 that a medical marijuana initiative (Measure 67) qualified for the November 3 ballot (Harry Esteve, "Marijuana Measure Will Be On Ballot," Register-Guard (Eugene), July 11, 1998, p. A1; Jim Mayer, "Voters Will Get Plethora Of Ballot Picks In November," Oregonian (Portland), July 11, 1998).

Rick Bayer, a Portland-area doctor with Oregonians for Medical Rights (OMR), led the petition effort and turned in about 97,700 signatures. The measure needed 73,261 signatures to qualify for the ballot. The measure would allow seriously and terminally ill patients to grow and use small amounts of marijuana without threat of arrest. OMR spokesperson Geoff Sugerman told NewsBriefs, "This is clearly a patients' rights issue. In a state that has approved Death With Dignity, it's not a huge leap to get people to feel comfortable saying that doctors should be able to prescribe medical marijuana." OMR conducted a poll of 500 Oregonians in February which found that 69% supported allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana and 25% opposed it.

A second measure related to marijuana on the ballot is Measure 57, which recriminalizes possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, which is currently a civil violation punishable only by a fine. Measure 57 would make such a offense a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. The measure was passed by the Oregon legislature in 1997 (H.B. 3643) but opponents gathered signatures and forced a referendum on the new law, which can only take effect if passed by voters on November 3. A fiscal impact statement by the state estimated that passage of Measure 57 could cost the state $1 million a year in lost revenues from fines that are levied for marijuana possession and added expenses of law enforcement and court costs (Charles E. Beggs, "Marijuana Measure Foes Says State Costs Understated," Associated Press, July 31, 1998; Harry Esteve, "Marijuana law could cost state $1 million," Register-Guard (Eugene), August 6, 1998, sec. 1, p. 1) (see "Oregon Marijuana Recriminalization Measure Qualifies for 1998 Ballot," NewsBriefs, November-December 1997; "Oregon Recriminalizes Possession of Small Amounts of Marijuana," NewsBriefs, August 1997).

Rick Bayer, Oregonians for Medical Rights - 6800 SW Canyon Drive, Portland, OR 97225, Tel: (503) 292-1035, Fax: (503) 297-0754, E-mail: <>, Web: <>. Geoff Sugerman, Spokesperson for OMR - (503) 371-4711.


On July 30, Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro certified that an initiative to allow the use medical use of marijuana (but not other Schedule I drugs) has collected enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. Washington Citizens for Medical Rights (WCMR) turned in about 245,000 signatures to the secretary of state's office. The measure needs 179,248 qualified signatures to make the ballot (Associated Press, "Medicinal Pot Measure Makes November Ballot," Seattle Times, July 31, 1998; Jim Lynch, "Wage, Marijuana, Abortion Initiatives May Make Ballot," Seattle Times, July 3, 1998).

The measure, Initiative 692 (I-692), is a focused, marijuana-only, version of last year's Initiative 685 (I-685), which voters rejected in November 1997. I-685 would have allowed for the medical use of all Schedule I drugs, including LSD and heroin. Tim Killian, a spokesperson for WCMR told NewsBriefs, "Washington voters are receptive to this issue and are poised to vote 'yes'" (see "Medical Marijuana Bills and Initiatives Update," NewsBriefs, February 1998).

Tim Killian, Washington Citizens for Medical Rights - P.O. Box 9765, Seattle, WA 98109, Tel: (206) 559-2200, Fax: (206) 324-3101, E-mail: <>.