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War Protests.

The meaning of last fall's ridiculously close presidential contest may be hard to divine, but voters did send one pretty clear message on Election Day: The war on drugs has gone too far. Six state and four local ballot initiatives dealt with the issue, and most of the results suggested strong misgivings about current policy.

California's Proposition 36, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, passed with 61 percent of the vote. The law, similar to an Arizona initiative approved in 1996, prescribes treatment instead of jail for nonviolent drug offenders on their first and second convictions. The state Legislative Analyst's Office estimates that the new policy will reduce California's prison population by up to 36,000 inmates a year, with annual savings of nearly $300 million.

By votes of 65 percent and 54 percent, respectively, Nevada and Colorado approved initiatives permitting the medical use of marijuana, raising to nine the number of states with such laws. Because its initiative was a constitutional amendment, Nevada's vote was its second on the issue; 59 percent of voters had approved medical marijuana in 1998.

In Mendocino County, California, 58 percent of voters approved an initiative that allows residents to grow up to 25 marijuana plants for personal use and instructs local authorities to make pot a low enforcement priority. About two-thirds of voters in each of three Massachusetts districts said yes to initiatives that ask their state legislators to support marijuana decriminalization. In Alaska, on the other hand, an initiative aimed at legalizing marijuana failed by a 20-point margin.

Asset forfeiture reform passed in Oregon with 67 percent of the vote and in Utah with 69 percent. Both measures require the government to obtain a criminal conviction before seizing property and to direct forfeiture revenue to programs other than law enforcement (drug treatment in Oregon, schools in Utah). A Massachusetts initiative that included similar reforms, along with the elimination of jail terms for most nonviolent drug offenders, was defeated, attracting only 47 percent of the vote.
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Title Annotation:votes on 2000 ballot initiatives send negative massage on war on drugs
Author:Sullum, Jacob
Publication:Reason
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2001
Words:334
Previous Article:30 YEARS AGO IN REASON.
Next Article:TUFLUC.
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