An Exploration of Efforts to Re-Define the Drug Problem Through State Ballot Measures
Pritchett, Anne McDonald
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Historically, the federal government has been the institution responsible for setting the nationâ s drug policy. Since 1996, however, the federal governmentâ s authority and legitimacy in this issue area has increasingly been challenged through state ballot measures introduced via the initiative process. While only eight percent of ballot measures historically are approved by voters (Initiative and Referendum Institute 2004), half of the 28 state ballot measures on illegal drugs have been approved by voters over the past decade. The stated goal of those supporting legalization through ballot measures is to â build a political movement to end the war on drugsâ (Nadelmann 2004). Nadelmann (2004) suggests that victories in the states show that the â nascent drug policy reform movementâ can win in the â big leagues of American politicsâ and that the successful models presented through the ballot measures will increase â public confidence in the possibilities and virtueâ of regulating the non-medical use of illicit drugs. To date there has been no detailed examination of the issue framing strategies in this venue; nor has there been an effort to link the problem definition and direct democracy literatures. This dissertation links the problem definition and direct democracy literatures, using drug policy as the vehicle and applying Stoneâ s (2002) analytic framework of problem definition to make descriptive inferences about the issue framing devices employed in state ballot measures on illegal drugs. The research examines a range of materials related to the state ballot measures on illegal drugs including the language appearing on voter ballots; the full text of the ballot measures, including ballot titles and political preambles; and the voter information statements and their authors. In addition, the dissertation describes the elements of legalization proposed by the ballot measures that were approved by voters and examines three key legal challenges to Proposition 215, one of the first ballot measures on illegal drugs approved by voters in California in 1996, including two U.S. Supreme Court cases.
- Doctoral Dissertations