Pasture Not So Green for Marijuana Activists

Pasture Not So Green for Marijuana Activists
Posted by CN Staff on November 07, 2002 at 16:25:51 PT
By Eddie Glenn
Source: Tahlequah Daily Press 
The hopes of activists trying to soften anti-marijuana laws across the country went up in smoke Tuesday night, as drug reform measures were turned down in Nevada, Arizona and Ohio.Wealthy backers who had succeeded in easing access to marijuana for medical uses sought to go a step further and lessen the penalties for its use in general. Many voters apparently drew a distinction between the two ideas.
Early polls had made advocates optimistic. The measures were heavily financed by three billionaire philanthropists - George Soros, John Sperling and Peter Lewis - as part of a broader effort to roll back the federal war on drugs.During the past six years, the three have financed successful efforts to pass 17 of 19 state-level initiatives easing drug laws. In the past, though, most of the measures dealt with medical marijuana.This time, voters in Nevada defeated a measure to legalize the possession of up to 3 ounces of marijuana. In Arizona, residents rejected an initiative that would have likened marijuana possession to a traffic violation. Finally, Ohio defeated a proposal that would have required judges to order treatment instead of jail for some drug offenders.President George Bush's newly appointed drug czar, John Walters, campaigned in all three states against the measures, joining with state law enforcement, judicial and political leaders in denouncing them. Walters and his supporters characterized marijuana as a gateway drug that leads to increased drug abuse by youths and more traffic accidents, domestic violence and health problems.Advocates were surprised by the force with which the White House fought them in this election."What we have seen tonight is how hard the drug war ideologues are willing to fight and how dirty they're willing to fight," said Bruce Merken, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, one of the groups that coordinated the campaigns. "I think we need to sit down and take a deep breath and take a look at how we can present the facts in a way that people can understand."Critics of the three tycoons, contending the citizen initiative process had been hijacked, trumpeted the results as a victory for the common people."We told them Ohio is not for sale," said the state's first lady, Hope Taft, a leader of Ohio's anti-pot campaign.Marijuana advocates did win a couple of small battles in Tuesday night's elections, though.In San Francisco, officials received approval to explore establishing a distribution program for medical marijuana; and in the District of Columbia, voters approved a treatment-instead-of-jail measure for pot possession.One local pro-hemp activist - we'll call him "Jim" - said that should Oklahomans ever get an initiative to de-criminalize marijuana, more people than just smokers will need to recognize the benefits of legalization and get involved in the movement."There's no political willpower among the farmers and other people in agriculture who would benefit from the legalization of industrial hemp," said Jim.Industrial hemp, legal in most European countries and Canada, is the same plant as the smokable marijuana plant, but contains far less Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical in marijuana that gets smokers "high." Industrial hemp has a wide variety of uses, from high-quality paper to automobile fuel.And many advocates believe that once the usefulness of hemp becomes apparent in the Canadian market, more Americans will push for its legalization.As most people in northeastern Oklahoma know, hemp grows very well in this part of the country, and a huge body of research has proved the plant is an excellent rotation crop. But even with its low THC levels, industrial hemp is still illegal. According to Jim, once Oklahoma farmers realize how useful-- and profitable-- hemp can be, a legalization movement will have a much greater chance of success."It's going to take a coalition of farmers and environmentalists, and some willfulness on the part of those people," said Jim.Jim said that people also need to be aware of the political situation in the 1930s that led to the prohibition of marijuana. Despite the lack of evidence of the dangers associated with marijuana - no deaths have ever been attributed solely to marijuana use, and it isn't chemically addictive - many large corporations, including those in the newspaper and wood pulp industries, lobbied heavily to have hemp banned. Those industries, of course, emphasized to politicians hemp's use as a smokable drug, and downplayed its use as an industrial fiber."The American people have been sucked into this war on marijuana," said Jim. "And they need to understand the facts behind why it was made illegal."As far as smokable marijuana is concerned, Jim believes it should be legalized as well, with laws put in place to insure responsible use, not unlike the current alcohol regulations."The people who smoke marijuana are going to smoke marijuana, anyway, whether it's legal or not," said Jim. "I think this prohibition should be ended and laws put in place - they're probably already in place - to keep those people who would be a danger to others from hurting anyone else."Such laws, according to Jim, would hold marijuana smokers accountable for their actions, without penalizing those who are responsible users.Dan Garber, Cherokee County Undersheriff, said that if Oklahomans desire a change in the enforcement of marijuana laws, they have the means at their disposal - the referendum - to have those laws changed. In Oklahoma, the signatures of 8 percent of the legal voters in the state are required on an initiative petition to get a change in state law on the ballot."We in law enforcement don't make the laws, but we're going to have to enforce whatever laws are in place," said Garber. "If a majority of the people want the law changed, then they can certainly do what they did in San Francisco with the medical marijuana laws, and get the law changed." Note: Some believe laws will be relaxed.Source: Tahlequah Daily Press (OK)Author: Eddie GlennPublished: November 07, 2002 Copyright: Tahlequah Daily Press 2002Contact: press intellex.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Marijuana Policy Project Signals - Las Vegas Mercury Backers Pledge Continued Efforts Votes to Explore City Pot Growing Program
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Comment #3 posted by Number 7 on November 08, 2002 at 11:56:11 PT
real american heros
George Soros, John Sperling and Peter Lewis are heros as far as I am concerned.Our opponents seem to believe that it is ok to use the money of the wealthy, but only if it is funneled through the two party system. It must really scare them that we 'hijacked' money that could have been used to continue to manipulate the masses.
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Comment #2 posted by krutch on November 08, 2002 at 08:56:34 PT:
And we did not lose big anywhere
Much hype has been made about measures been defeated, but te margins of defeat are small. In Nevada 39% of the voters believe that MJ should be legal for recreational use. This is a very large minority. I think that if the initative was worded differently it might have won. Too much state involvement in the the distribution. I am angry that the federal government sees fit to spend my tax money to defeat the initative. The Bush administration should be worried. A large minority of voters in conservative state do not agree with the national policy of drug war that they fiercely defend. The tide is turning against the anti's. 
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Comment #1 posted by The GCW on November 07, 2002 at 16:52:09 PT
We won in Mass and We won in San Fran.
From sea to shining sea.We won.We are winning more each and every moment, moving foward toward Truth. Pro's like Asa are being exposed. Why just look at the new marker they are going to be identified with: "Anti-Drug PSA's Must Be Identified" posted today right after the elections.Think how that news will help the next elections, for the pro's to be marked so well. Even the pro's will get sick of it.Every second, the pro's are slipping. We are not giving an inch backwards, ONLY FOWARD TOWARD ALL TRUTH.As YOu read this they are loosing ground, We are winning!
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