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Drug Policy Reform Initiative on Washington State Ballot in November


August 1997

On July 3, Citizens for Drug Policy Reform (CDPR) in Washington state submitted more than 242,000 signatures to the Secretary of State to have a drug policy reform measure placed on the November 1997 ballot (PRNewswire, "242,000 Signatures Submitted for Drug Policy Reform Initiative, July 3, 1997; Lynda V. Maples, "Initiative shifts drug laws," Spokesman-Review (Spokane), August 12, 1997, p. A1).

The measure, Initiative 685, would fund drug education for children; promote treatment, community service or parole for minor drug offenders; require violent drug offenders to serve their full sentence; and allow doctors with a concurring opinion from a second physician to recommend medical marijuana, and other Schedule I drugs, to seriously ill patients. The measure would also allow for the release of about 500 prisoners currently serving sentences for simple drug possession.

Tim Killian at CDPR told NewsBriefs that the measure has qualified for the ballot. Known as the Drug Medicalization and Prevention Act of 1997, the measure "ensures that decisions about how to deal with serious illness are made by individuals and their doctors, not by politicians or bureaucrats," said Rob Killian, M.D., M.P.H., representing CDPR.

However, billionaire publisher Steve Forbes announced he will fund a radio campaign to defeat Initiative 685. Forbes was an unsuccessful candidate for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination. Forbes' organization, Americans for Hope, Growth and Opportunity, announced it will fund a similar campaign to defeat a medical marijuana initiative in Washington, D.C. "I think he has no real interest in Washington or this issue," said Rob Killian. "He's grandstanding for a run at the presidency." (David Postman, "Forbes starts opposition ads to drug initiative," Seattle Times, August 16, 1997).

Lieutenant Governor Brad Owens (D) and King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng (R) have organized Concerned Citizens Against Dangerous Drugs to oppose the proposition. CDPR has filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission claiming that Owens' active opposition to Initiative 685 violates state laws because he used his official office and was not filing financial reports. Owens, who invited Forbes to Washington to oppose the initiative, was angered that Forbes is using the radio ads to attack President Clinton's allegedly "soft" stand on illegal drugs. Owens called Forbes' attack on Clinton "unfortunate" and "not a necessary thing to do."

Citizens for Drug Policy Reform - Tim Killian, Tel: (206) 559-2200; E-mail:; Dr. Rob Killian, Pager: (206) 596-9351; Text and Press Release available on-line:

Americans for Hope, Growth and Opportunity - Joel Rosenberg, Tel: (703) 925-9281, E-mail:, Web: