NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Marijuana initiatives failed in two of the three states where they were on the ballot Nov. 2. Alaskans voted against decriminalizing the substance and voters in Oregon opted not to expand the state’s medical marijuana laws. Montana, however, became the 10th state to approve medical marijuana.
Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the Montana vote is understandable because the American people are compassionate and want to help people obtain relief from suffering.
“As a result they are willing to allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. I believe this decision is ill-advised,” Duke said in a statement to Baptist Press. “Marijuana just does not provide a significant level of pain relief. Most people in severe pain who use marijuana are also taking other pain-killing drugs in combination with the marijuana because the marijuana by itself is just not adequate. The American public is not being told the whole story about this by those who support the decriminalization of marijuana.”
Alaska’s measure would have made marijuana legal for adults 21 and older to possess, grow, buy or give away, and it would have allowed state regulation and taxation of the drug. Supporters of the proposal vastly outspent those who opposed it, but with 98 percent of precincts reporting, the measure was rejected 57 percent to 43 percent.
Exit polls indicated Alaskans cited the state’s substance abuse problems, fears about drugged drivers, and sending a mixed message to children as reasons why they voted against legalizing marijuana, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
Voters in Alaska approved medical marijuana use in 1998 and then rejected a measure similar to this year’s proposal in 2000.
In Oregon, the proposal would have increased the amount of marijuana patients could possess up to six pounds and would have authorized dispensaries to supply patients who can’t obtain the drug. The Oregon Family Council, which opposed the measure, said a passing vote would make the government change sides in the war on drugs by causing officials to aid those who want increased marijuana usage instead of fighting the prevalence of the drug. With 90 percent of precincts reporting, the measure was rejected 58 percent to 42 percent.
Montana’s Medical Marijuana Act passed by a 62 to 38 percent margin with 94 percent of precincts reporting. The new act will protect patients, their doctors and their caregivers from state and local arrest and prosecution for the medical use of marijuana, according to the Billings Gazette.
Voters in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington have approved medical marijuana. In Hawaii, a law was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor in 2000, and in Vermont, a law was passed by the legislature and allowed to become law without the governor’s signature in May.
“The votes not to expand decriminalization of marijuana reflect the public’s understanding of the significant danger this drug poses,” said Duke, who monitors drug abuse trends for the ERLC. “Americans are still convinced, and rightly so, that we will not benefit as a nation by creating more drug-dependent people. The medicinal use of marijuana is one thing to the American people. The total decriminalization of marijuana, or anything that moves too far in that direction, is something entirely different — something they are not willing to allow.
“I am grateful for the good common sense the voters showed against expanding the availability of marijuana,” Duke added. “I hope that one day they will also understand that those who are pushing for the total decriminalization of marijuana are using their compassion for the sick to advance a sinister agenda that wants marijuana to be as available to the public as aspirin. Medicinal marijuana is the Trojan Horse of the marijuana decriminalization movement.”