In a sharp rebuff of the drug-reform movement, Nevada voters refused Tuesday to make their state the first to legalize possession of marijuana, and reform measures also failed in Ohio and Arizona.

Federal and state law enforcement officials teamed up to oppose the Nevada measure, which would have legalized possession of up to 3 ounces of pot.

The Arizona proposal would have downgraded small-scale marijuana possession to the equivalent of a traffic violation, while the Ohio measure would have forced judges to order treatment instead of jail for many drug offenders.

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 and North Dakota, voters approved creation of a state lottery. That is a milestone for Tennessee, which had joined Utah and Hawaii as the only states without legalized gambling.

The results in Nevada, Arizona and Ohio were a blow for a national alliance of drug reformers, who vowed to keep up their fight in future elections.

"For the first time, we were up against the full weight of the federal government," said Bruce Mirkin, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. "I never for a moment believed this was going to be easy."

In recent elections, voters in several states had approved use of marijuana for medical purposes, and treatment-instead-of-jail proposals were approved in Arizona in 1996 and California two years ago. But in Ohio, Gov. Robert Taft and most of the criminal justice establishment campaigned vigorously against the proposal.

In Nevada, authorities warned that legalizing pot could wreak havoc, and some voters agreed.

"It would be a mess," said Peaches Johnson of Las Vegas. "It's permission to get high."

In South Dakota, voters heeded the urgings of politicians and judges, and defeated a proposal - backed by drug reformers and others - 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. However, Colorado voters defeated a virtually identical proposal.

Both measures had financial backing from wealthy California entrepreneur Ron Unz, who contends that bilingual education traps foreign-born students in classrooms where they master neither their native language nor English.

In Florida, Republican Gov. Jeb Bush won re-election but suffered a defeat elsewhere on the ballot as voters approved an initiative backed by many Democrats that would limit class size in public schools. Bush said the limits - ranging from 18 in the lowest grades to 25 in high school - would force an unaffordable increase in school spending.

On the financial front, elected officials in Arkansas and Massachusetts were relieved by the defeat of proposals to eliminate major taxes. The Arkansas measure would have abolished the sales tax on food and medicine; the initiative in Massachusetts would have repealed the state income tax, drying up a $9 billion funding source.

Warned of drastically higher taxes, voters in Oregon rejected a proposal to create the nation's first comprehensive health care plan. The estimated price tag was to give every citizen full medical insurance was $19 billion a year.

Oregon voters also rejected a proposal to make their state the first in the nation to require labels on genetically modified foods.

Among many measures on local ballots were the proposed secession of the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood from Los Angeles. Voters rejected the breakaway bids by wide margins, keeping their city the nation's second largest.

In other results:

Colorado and New Mexico voters rejected a proposed state holiday in honor of labor leader Cesar Chavez.

California and Colorado voters defeated proposals to allow voter registration on Election Day.

North Dakotans defeated a proposed package of financial incentives aimed at encouraging young adults to stay in the state.

Oklahomans voted to ban cockfighting. The state had been one of three, along with Louisiana and New Mexico, that still allowed it.

Arkansas voters rejected a proposal to make certain acts of animal cruelty a felony. Opponents of the measure warned that farmers, hunters and fishermen could face unwarranted accusations of cruelty.

Californians approved a proposal sponsored by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to earmark a half-billion dollars annually for after-school programs.

Pubdate: Wed, 06 Nov 2002
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2002 Associated Press
Author: David Crary, AP National Writer