The voters of Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Arizona (for the second time) passed by large majorities, similar medical marijuana initiatives to that of California’s, which passed in November 1996.
Nevada passed the first of two initiative elections in 1998 for medical marijuana. (By Nevada law, you must win initiatives twice.) It passed again in 2000, and became law in 2001.
Medical marijuana won in Colorado too, but the Colorado Secretary of State refused to certify the petition because of disputes about signature-gathering methods. In June of 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the signature gathering had been legally done. It passed in November 2000.
Washington, D.C. voted on a comprehensive medical marijuana initiative. However, former Representative Bob Barr (Rep. Georgia) added an amendment to a 200 billion dollar catch-all spending bill in late October 1998 that no money from any source whatsoever could be used to count the votes of the Washington, D.C. medical marijuana initiative. Representative Barr and the heavily Republican legislators of both the U.S. House and Senate deliberately and consciously ordered, for the first time in all of American history, that the votes not be counted in an American election…
…Incredible, unbelievable, unconscionable!
Finally, a federal judge ordered the November 1998 D.C. votes to be counted in September 1999, almost one year later, and it officially passed by 69 percent of the vote. In October 1999, Representative Barr asked Republican legislators to again vote to refuse to allow the law to be implemented. Now, in 2007, Bob Barr has flip-flopped 100 percent and is a lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project! The Cox News Service reported March 30, 2007 that Barr, whom the Libertarian Party once called the “worst drug warrior” during his eight years in Congress, has now joined the Libertarians and is working with MPP. One of his jobs will be to lobby against the “Barr Amendment” – legislation he introduced in 1999 to prevent the legalization of medical marijuana in the District of Colombia. Barr did not comment on taking the MPP job, but said he had left the Republican Party because of its move “toward big government and disregard toward privacy and civil liberties.”
On June 30, 1997, the Oregon legislature voted to end 24 years of decriminalization and to recriminalize cannabis for as little as a seed. “Liberal Democratic” Governor Kitzhaber “reluctantly” signed it into law July 3, 1997. After he signed it, Kitzhaber said, “I think this law is more about search and seizure than it is about marijuana use.”
On July 4, 1997, at a campfire at the National Rainbow Gathering in Eastern Oregon, a number of marijuana/hemp activists including myself, Jack Herer, put up the money to hire petitioners to gather signatures for a referendum to stop cannabis from being recriminalized. The Portland Oregonian, the largest newspaper in Oregon, originally predicted, by their polls, that we would lose by a 2 to 1 margin. What had to be done was to gather enough signatures, approximately 100,000 in the next 87 days, to negate the vote of the legislature and the signature of the governor, thereby keeping cannabis decriminalized until the November 1998 election. The Oregonian, the largest newspaper in Oregon, originally predicted, by their polls, that we would lose by a 2 to 1 margin. In fact, we won by a 2 to 1 margin, defeating recriminalization!
On November 2, 1999, the voters of Maine approved a statewide initiative by an overwhelming 61 percent to make medical marijuana legal by doctor’s recommendation. Medical marijuana is now legal on the entire West Coast, and the East Coast is beginning to follow suit.
On April 25, 2000, the Hawaii Senate passed a bill to remove state level criminal penalties for seriously ill people who use marijuana with their doctor’s approval. It is the first of its kind to be enacted by a state legislature rather than through a ballot initiative. Hawaii’s Governor, Benjamin J. Cayetano signed it into law on June 16, 2000.