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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 5 November, 2002, 17:20 GMT
Americans vote on marijuana use
Marijuana kit
US federal law prohibits all use of cannabis
As polling gets underway in the crucial mid-term elections, right across the United States votes are also being cast in a number of ballots on a range of local issues.

Top of the agenda in six states is the controversial issue of whether to ease the laws on marijuana.


I would rather tax it like cigarettes and put money into education and rehabilitation than put it in the hands of drug dealers

Nevada state Representative Chris Giunchiglian
The most revolutionary proposal is in Nevada, where the voters will decide whether it should become the first state to allow people to carry up to 84 grammes (three ounces) of marijuana.

US anti-drugs Tsar John Walters is against any movement to ease the drugs laws, saying it is irresponsible.

Licensed shops

Under the Nevada plan citizens over the age of 21 would be able to buy the drug in state-licensed shops, rather than having to resort to dealers on the street.

The move is sponsored by Nevada state Representative Chris Giunchiglian who says, "our war on drugs in not working and it's time we admitted that".

"Marijuana is now three times easier to get than alcohol and tobacco simply because it's not regulated. I would rather tax it like cigarettes and put money into education and rehabilitation than put it in the hands of drug dealers," he added.

Marijuana growing lab
Many advocate the use of marijuana to alleviate pain

But the electorate in the state famous for gambling is divided over the proposal.

According to a recent poll, 44% of the population is in favour of the move, while 46% are against it and 10% remain undecided.

In traditionally liberal San Francisco, home of the pot-smoking hippie revolution of the 1960s, "Proposition S" has voters deciding whether to allow the city to begin growing marijuana for seriously ill patients.

Therapy

Jumping on the medical use bandwagon, Arizona's citizens are voting on whether to create a register of people who use the drug for medical purposes.

In tandem with this the penalties for those using it for merely recreational purposes would be tightened.

In South Dakota the proposal facing voters is whether it should be legal under state law for people to plant and possess industrial hemp.

In Washington DC and Ohio initiatives are being considered whereby those convicted of using marijuana would be offered treatment instead of punishment.

Grassroots concerns

More than 200 state initiatives have been included on Tuesday's ballot sheets, ranging from health care to animal rights.

Both Massachusetts and Colorado have tabled votes on whether state should only be allowed to conduct lessons in English - bilingual education is already blocked in California and Arizona.

In Oregon voters are being asked to support the nation's first universal health care system, funded by a single-payer insurance plan.

And in New Mexico the decision rests on whether to change the state's constitution to permit "idiots" and "insane persons" to vote in elections.

"There are so many varieties of mental illness with people who are perfectly capable of making a decision," state elections official Denise Lamb said.


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03 Jan 02 | UK
30 Jul 01 | Americas
17 Jul 00 | Americas
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