Election 2000 Yields
Largest-Ever Repudiation of Nation's War on Drugs

Millions in Five States Choose Treatment over Jail for Non-Violent Offenders, Medical Use of Marijuana, and Reform of Drug-Related Asset Forfeiture Laws

On November 7th millions of Americans sent a clear message that they have lost faith in the nation's war on drugs. In five out of six states where drug policy issues were on the ballot, voters decided in favor of major change regarding treatment instead of prison for non-violent offenders; medical marijuana for patients when recommended by a doctor; and civil asset forfeiture law reform.

Since 1996, 17 out of 19 initiatives and referendums have passed around the country in favor of drug policy reform.


Drug reform election results

ALASKA: Marijuana Legalization Failed: 39.56% in favor, 60.44% opposed
Ballot Measure #5 would have done away with civil and criminal penalties for persons 18 years or older who use marijuana or other hemp products. It would also have granted amnesties to persons previously convicted of marijuana crimes, and established a panel to study the question of reparations for those harmed by marijuana prohibition.

CALIFORNIA: Sentencing Reform Passed: 60.8% in favor, 39.2% opposed
Proposition 36 will require that those convicted of nonviolent drug possession offenses for the first or second time be offered rehabilitation programs instead of state prison.

The initiative technically doesn't require coerced treatment, but requires that treatment be offered to drug offenders who would otherwise have no choice but incarceration- essentially coerced treatment, but not exactly. Most drug reform organizations endorsed this measure as a realistic step away from incarceration as first choice after conviction.

MENDOCINO COUNTY, CA: Marijuana Decriminalization Passed: 58% in favor, 42% opposed
Mendocino County Measure G will allow adults to grow 25 marijuana plants apiece, but not for sale. The measure further directs the county sheriff and prosecutor to make marijuana crimes their last priority and directs county officials to seek an end to state and federal marijuana laws.

This measure is partially symbolic, since state and local law enforcement can still prosecute marijuana crimes, but will relieve some law enforcement pressure and help to fuel debate.

COLORADO: Medical Marijuana Passed: 54% in favor, 46% opposed Amendment 20 provides for legal medical marijuana use by patients with serious illnesses. Following the Americans for Medical Rights (AMR) template, the measure sets low limits of the quantity of marijuana and limits approved uses to certain illnesses or symptoms specified in the initiative or added later by the state.

MASSACHUSETTS: Sentencing and Asset Forfeiture Reform Failed: 47% in favor, 53% opposed
Question 8 would have diverted nonviolent drug offenders from prison to drug treatment at their request. It would also direct forfeited proceeds to a drug treatment trust fund and would require the civil equivalent of a guilty verdict before allowing property to be forfeited, instead of the easier-to-obtain probable cause rulings that suffice currently.

Other provisions, which ultimately led to the initiative's defeat, would have provided the treatment option to those arrested for low-level drug dealing as well as those arrested for simple possession.

NEVADA: Medical Marijuana Passed: 65% in favor, 35% opposed
Question 9 was the required second round of popular voting to approve this initiative. Any limits will be determined by the legislature.

OREGON: Asset Forfeiture Reform Passed: 66% in favor, 34% opposed
Ballot Measure 3 will hold the state government to stricter standards of proof that property was the proceeds of crime or used to commit a crime. It also bars forfeiture unless the owner of the property is first convicted of a crime involving the seized property. Law enforcement would be restricted to claiming no more than 25% of seized assets.

UTAH: Asset Forfeiture Reform Passed: 68.9% in favor, 31.1% opposed
Initiative B will hold the state government to stricter standards of proof that property was the proceeds of crime or used to commit a crime. It also bars forfeiture unless the owner of the property is first convicted of a crime involving the seized property. Profits from seized assets will be deposited in the school fund.


November Coalition, as with most reform groups, makes no endorsements in races for elective office, but here are selected results from races where drug reformers or their foes were up for election:

Republican Congressman Tom Campbell ran on a strong drug reform platform, but could not overcome the well funded, long time incumbent, Diane Feinstein. Campbell lost 56%-36%. Libertarian and Green Party candidates picked up 5% of the vote. Reformers have at least temporarily lost one of their few Republican allies in Congress (district 15).

CALIFORNIA: 27th Congressional District
Republican drug warrior Jim Rogan lost his seat to challenger Adam Schiff. Rogan, who had supported medical marijuana in the California legislature, earned drug reformers' scorn by switching his position immediately upon being elected to Congress. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Rogan went so far as to support an amendment opposing even research on medical marijuana.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Activists Rob Kampia and Matt Mercurio's "Stop the Drug War" campaign for US Delegate (DC's non-voting Congressional representative) and at-large City Council garnered 4,378 votes (Kampia) and 5,477 (Mercurio), under the auspices of the Libertarian Party. While falling short of the 7,500 votes needed to secure major party status and eliminate future signature gathering requirements, the campaign garnered substantial media coverage and raised awareness of the issue in the shadow of the federal government.

Drug war zealot Republican Rep. Bill McCollum ran for the seat vacated by retiring Republican Connie Mack. He was defeated by Democrat Bill Nelson, 51%-46%.

KENTUCKY: 6th Congressional District
Drug warrior Republican Ernie Fletcher fended off Democratic challenger Scotty Baesler and insurgent Reform Party candidate Gatewood Galbraith, who ran on a pro-gun, pro-marijuana platform. The vote favored Fletcher, 51%-35%-12%.

Incumbent Republican drug warrior John Ashcroft lost to the late Gov. Mel Carnahan, 50%-48%. It is anticipated that the acting governor will appoint Gov. Carnahan's widow to the seat, to serve until another election is held two years from now.

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