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Nevada turns down ballot measure legalizing marijuana

Wednesday, November 6, 2002

In twin setbacks for the drug-reform movement, Nevada voters refused Tuesday to make their state the first to legalize possession of marijuana, and voters in Ohio rejected a treatment-instead-of-jail proposal.

In Florida, voters approved a sweeping ban on smoking in restaurants and virtually all other workplaces. "It's going to save lives," said Martin Larsen, chairman of the Smoke-Free for Health campaign.

Smokers also were targeted in Arizona, where voters approved an increase in cigarette taxes from 58 cents to $1.18 per pack.

In Tennessee, partial returns showed a proposed state lottery winning with roughly 60 percent support. Approval would leave Utah and Hawaii as the only states still without legalized gambling.

North Dakota voters also approved a lottery.

In all, there were 202 propositions on ballots in 40 states.

Ohio drug reform defeated

Defeat of the Ohio measure was a blow for a national alliance of drug reformers, including billionaire New York financier George Soros.

Voters approved treatment-instead-of-jail proposals in Arizona in 1996 and California two years ago, in each case covering non-violent first- and second-time offenders. But in Ohio, Gov. Robert Taft and most of the criminal justice establishment campaigned vigorously against the proposal, and it was soundly defeated.

The reform movement also helped get places on the ballot for the Nevada marijuana proposal and a similar measure that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in Arizona. The federal drug czar, John Walters, came to both states to denounce the measures.

In South Dakota, voters heeded the urgings of politicians and judges, and defeated a proposal that would have allowed defendants to tell juries they could disregard a law if they don't like it.

In Massachusetts, voters agreed to eliminate bilingual education and replace it with a one-year English-immersion program. A similar question was on Colorado's ballot.

Under the proposals, students would be taught all classes in English, though a teacher could use a student's native language only to help explain a complex theory.

Tax measures

On the financial front, elected officials in Arkansas and Massachusetts warned of dire results if voters decided to eliminate major taxes.

The Arkansas measure would abolish the sales tax on food and medicine, costing state and local governments more than $200 million in revenue.

The initiative in Massachusetts, proposing repeal of the 5.3 percent state income tax, would dry up a $9 billion funding source that represents 40 percent of the state budget. Herman B. Leonard, a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, called it the state's most radical ballot initiative in 50 years, though the Legislature would have the option of defying it.

Taxes in Oregon would climb if voters there approve the nation's first comprehensive health care plan, which would give every citizen full medical insurance. The plan -- opposed by the insurance and health care industries -- would cost an estimated $19 billion a year, to be financed by higher income taxes and a new payroll tax.

In Florida, Republican Gov. Jeb Bush cited budget concerns in opposing an initiative backed by many Democrats that would limit class size in public schools. Limits would range from 18 in the lowest grades to 25 in high school.

Only one statewide ballot measure dealt with gay rights -- a measure approved by Nevada voters that reinforced the state's existing ban on gay marriage.

Among the many measures on local ballots, the proposed secession of the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood from Los Angeles drew particularly vigorous opposition from elected officials. Mayor James Hahn, hopeful of defeating the two measures, said he would seek a state law barring future secession attempts.


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