Since 1996, 19 out of 24 drug policy reform initiatives have passed around the country, indicating voters' dissatisfaction with our failed and expensive war on drugs. This winning streak is unusual, considering that over the last 100 years, only about 40% of all measures placed on state ballots by voters have won. From 1996 to 2002, drug policy reform has won almost 80% of their campaigns. State legislatures, responding to voter support for reform, have also passed more than 130 drug reforms around the country, many of them within the last two years.
This year, Washington DC voters overwhelmingly approved Measure 62, which requires that those who are addicted to drugs receive treatment instead of jail for non-violent offenses. The measure passed with 78% of the vote. Even though a similar initiative was defeated in Ohio, advocates and families vowed to continue to fight for compassionate and rational drug policies in the state.
"Make no mistake, the people who were defeated in Ohio were the families and loved ones of those suffering from addiction," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of Drug Policy Alliance, the nation's leading drug policy reform organization. "Just like their addiction problems are not going away, their struggle to gain access to treatment is not going away."
Marijuana decriminalization was also defeated in Nevada and Arizona.
"These initiatives may have been ahead of their time, but similar initiatives will sweep the country soon enough, as support grows for removing marijuana from criminal laws," said Nadelmann. A recent Time magazine / CNN poll showed that 72% of Americans support replacing jail time with civil fines for marijuana possession.
He and Bill Zimmerman, executive director of Campaign for New Drug Policies, agreed that overall 19 out of 24 victories in favor of drug policy reform is more progress than any other issue in America has made in the last decade.
"Drug policy reform is moving towards the mainstream," said Zimmerman. "If you consider the hundreds of thousands of people who signed petitions to put these measures on the ballots, and the thousands more who voted for them, we are clearly witnessing a growing public sentiment against our failed and expensive drug policies."
Fact Sheet: 19 out of 24 Victories for Drug Policy Reform 1996 - 2002