LIGHTEN UP: Hawaii lawmakers may consider easing access to medical marijuana. Photo courtesy of Reason
Photo courtesy of Reason

BY RONALD FRASER – Hawaii voters on November 6th will approve or reject two ballot items including  whether to authorize revenue bonds to repair dams and reservoirs.  Citizen lawmakers in six other states will vote up or down a variety of marijuana ballot initiatives.

As important as Hawaii’s close-to-home ballot propositions are, the out-of-state marijuana initiatives may, in the long run, have a far greater impact nationally and even here in Hawaii.

Medical Marijuana – Already approved in Hawaii, voters in two states, 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 medical conditions.

In Arkansas, however, 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 say “Yes,” 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  The proposal on the ballot in November asks Montanans to repeal the legislature’s action and reinstate the law as originally enacted in 2004.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.  Hawaii 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 Hawaii.

Not surprisingly, 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 cost and increase tax revenues.

Initiative Measure 502 in Washington State 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.

Historically, the marijuana debate is following America’s laboratory of democracy tradition.  New public policy ideas are first tried in individual state “laboratories” before they are exported to other states or imposed nationally.   The first state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana will certainly become a closely watched policy experiment.

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 (Hawaii included) and the District of Columbia now allow medical uses of marijuana – a direct rebuttal of federal laws that claim marijuana has no medicinal value.

By inviting the voters into the decision making process, ballot initiatives become important public education events.  Marijuana ballot initiatives, for example, mean voters have an opportunity to consider both sides of the issue and replace fear of the unknown with a more informed understanding of drug use. Once better informed, voters, not lawmakers in Washington or Honolulu, are ready to responsively make the rules by which they will live.

Ronald Fraser, Ph.D., writes on public policy issues for the DKT Liberty Project, a Washington-based civil liberties organization.  Write him at: fraserr@erols.com 

 

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9 COMMENTS

  1. It is referred to cannabis now because that is the scientific name. It is also the best source for bio-fuel, even better than corn or soy. It's more than just pot or marijuana. The possibilities for uses in sustainable living are also over-looked because everyone is too busy worrying about reefer madness… the feds have done a bang-up job of misinforming the public about cannabis. Paper, fabric, rope can be made and as a crop it is much easier to grow than trees or cotton. It could change the country and provide a new source to tax for states.

  2. The Truth About Measure 80 in Oregon

    M8O would allow anyone 21 to grow marijuana anywhere – in a vacant lot near a school yard or in a house next door to you. A user could grow football fields of marijuana without any restrictions for personal use. With Measure 80 kids will be able to get it free from the new black market that will be created by all those 21 years and over, who will be allowed to grow unlimited amounts of marijuana.

    M8O prohibits any regulations and fees to grow Hemp with undefined THC levels, which is the primary psychoactive component of marijuana, posing the possibility that thousands of acres of rural farmland across Oregon could be bought up for the sole purpose of growing marijuana and hemp.

    It is a NO for Measure 80.

  3. The Israelis are developing a GMO-marijuana version with no psychoactive ingredient. Once this is ready, all the "medical" dopers can buy their marijuana at a pharmacy, and toke as much as they need to 'heal'.

    And the truth will separate from fiction: Real marijuana is a drug, causes dependency, crime, torn up families, endangers public safety, and hinders employment.

  4. "Impacts of pot" is full of reefer madness. Anyone that wants marijuana currently can get it. Vote yes on Measure 80 and end this failed prohibition which does not reduce supply or demand.

    Vote YES on measure 80 in Oregon.

  5. Impactsofpot is patently, hilariously insane. I could annihilate your entire argument, but that fact that you think black market dealers (you know, the bloodthirsty people able to make huge profits off of prohibition and who care ONLY about money) will gave away their product for free because they'll have it growing in football field anywhere they feel like, pretty much does the job in its own. You'd have to be a either a drug dealer or a desperate, sad DEA agent (the only people the drug war actually helps) to post drivel like this or support the drug war. I look forward to the downfall of your entire perspective when it is ultimately legalized and nothing happens but the crime and violent crime rates, incarceration rates fall while jobs and tax revenues rise (which is EXACTLY what happened the last time we ended a prohibition of a significantly more dangerous drug in alcohol back in the 20').

  6. Impactsofpot is patently, hilariously insane. I could annihilate your entire argument, but that fact that you think black market dealers (you know, the bloodthirsty people able to make huge profits off of prohibition and who care ONLY about money) will gave away their product for free because they'll have it growing in football field anywhere they feel like, pretty much does the job in its own. You'd have to be a either a drug dealer or a desperate, sad DEA agent (the only people the drug war actually helps) to post drivel like this or support the drug war. I look forward to the downfall of your entire perspective when it is ultimately legalized and nothing happens but the crime and violent crime rates, incarceration rates fall while jobs and tax revenues rise (which is EXACTLY what happened the last time we ended a prohibition of a significantly more dangerous drug in alcohol back in the 20').

  7. According to Dr. Kevin Sabet the financial benefits of marijuana legalization would never outweigh its social and health related costs. Promising everything from increased tax revenue and a cure for cancer, to a reduction of violence near the Mexican border and fewer criminal justice costs, legalization advocates have convinced almost half of America that their policy of choice is inevitable and desirable. But their arguments are high on hyperbole and low on facts. Rarely discussed are the potential downsides of such a policy, ranging from increased addiction to greater health and criminal justice costs. In fact, both of our already legal drugs—alcohol and tobacco—offer chilling illustrations of how an open market fuels greater harms. They are cheap and easy to obtain. Commercialization glamorizes their use and furthers their social acceptance. High profits make aggressive marketing worthwhile for sellers. Addiction is simply the price of doing business.

    Why is Kevin A. Sabet Against the Legalization of Marijuana? http://loop21.com/politics/kevin-sabet-against-le

    Vote NO on Measure 80

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