The West vs. The White House

Three western states have marijuana reform measures on the ballot this year--Oregon, Alaska and Montana. White House Drug Czar John Walters has been out campaigning in these states to defeat the measure.

If all three measures are approved, Montana would become the 10th state to legalize pot for medical purposes, Oregon would dramatically expand its existing medical-marijuana program, and Alaska would become the first state to decriminalize marijuana altogether.

Walters may be making headway in Oregon. Montana and Alaska, on the other hand, may succeed in their reform efforts. The Alaska measure goes the furthest. If it passes, it would

...prohibit prosecution of anyone 21 or older who consumes, grows or distributes pot for private personal use. It would allow authorities to regulate marijuana along the lines of alcohol and tobacco _ for example, taxing it and barring its use in public.

The Marijuana Policy Project has been funding much of the reform movement. Their Alaska campaign website is here. The White House isn't giving up though. You can expect to see a new ad this week, Open Letter to Parents . MPP argues that the Alaska measure will:

Reduce teen marijuana use. In Alaska, 57% of high school students have used marijuana. By contrast, in the Netherlands, where marijuana is sold in regulated, indoor establishments to adults who are carded for age verification, only 28% of teenagers have used marijuana. It would appear that we can reduce teen access to marijuana by taking it off the streets and regulating it; this is what the November 2004 ballot initiative would do.

Break the "gateway" to hard drugs. By taking marijuana out of the hands of drug dealers, the initiative would also reduce the use of hard drugs in Alaska. Currently, adults who obtain marijuana from the criminal market are also exposed to cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and other drugs. After the November 2004 ballot initiative is passed and implemented, adults who use marijuana will be able to obtain it from regulated, indoor establishments instead of having to resort to the criminal market.

The measure will also generate tax revenue and free police up to focus on violent crime and those who drive impaired by alchohol or drugs.

For example, according to an October 28, 2003, report issued by the Anchorage Police Department, 23% of sexual assault reports are not investigated due to understaffing, while Anchorage "is expected to be number one in the nation per capita for sexual assaults." (You can download the report here.)

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