Cannabis initiative captures place on ballot
An initiative to license, regulate and tax marijuana sales in Washington has collected enough valid voter signatures to go before voters in November, if the Legislature does not enact it first.
Washington may be in the unusual position this November of voting on both same-sex marriage and legalization of marijuana.
The State Elections Division reported Friday that Initiative 502 has garnered more than 278,000 signatures, far more than the 241,153 it needed.
I-502 goes to the Legislature, which can enact it into law, or reject it and send the measure to the ballot, let it go to the ballot without action, or offer the voters I-502 and an alternative written by lawmakers.
Passing this measure will free up law enforcement resources, allowing police and prosecutors to focus on violent criminals instead of low-level marijuana users,” said Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, a sponsor of the initiative.
Holmes, in an e-mail, added: “I’m personally a) anxious to embark on a statewide campaign, and b) glad to have another subject for my discussions with Jenny Durkan.”
Durkan is the present U.S. Attorney for Western Washington. Two of her predecessors are part of the New Approach Washington campaign that is promoting I-502.
Washington is one of 16 states that have approved medical marijuana, although federal law still forbids possession and sale: Marijuana is up there with heroin as a Schedule 1 drug, officially more dangerous than meth.
Legalization Washington State
The feds have stepped up marijuana enforcement along the West Coast in recent months. Agents have raided dispensaries in Seattle and Tacoma believed to be fronts for sales bound for export beyond Washington. The U.S. attorney for Oregon, and county prosecutors, have threatened owners of buildings that house medical marijuana dispensaries.
I-502 is backed by two former U.S. attorneys — John McKay from the Bush II administration and Kate Pflaumer who held the job under President Clinton — as well as Seattle’s former agent-in-charge Charles Mandigo.
It is also supported by a bevy of the usual liberal suspects, from Washington State Democrats to TV’s travel guru Rick Steves.
Nationally, a bill that would allow states to legalize and regulate marijuana sales is sponsored by two men who can be considered bookends of the U.S. House of Representatives — conservative/libertarian Republican Rep. Ron Paul, and liberal Democratic Rep. Barney Frank.
Advocates of marijuana legalization have included such luminaries as the late conservative columnist William F. Buckley, Jr., and former Secretary of State George Shultz. President Obama tells in his autobiography of getting high in high school.
Rep. Paul, running for President, has repeatedly argued that the War on Drugs is “a total failure”, saying it has not prevented 100 million Americans from lighting up while at the same time destabilizing the U.S.-Mexican border.
I-502 would license and regulate distribution of marijuana under supervision of the state Liquor Control Board. Cannabis would be sold, to those over 21, in marijuana-only state stores.
A 25 percent excise tax would be slapped on wholesale and retail sales. The income, estimated at $215 million, would be divided between the state General Fund and health and drug prevention programs.
Washington is not the only state facing a decision on the drug. Advocates of marijuana legalization in Colorado claim enough signatures to “regulate marijuana like alcohol.”
Voters from liberal Washington to conservative Arizona have enacted laws legalizing (at the state level) sale of marijuana for medical purposes. Colorado has issued 88,000 medical marijuana cards.
Seattle, in 2003, enacted a city initiative saying that marijuana enforcement should be given the lowest priority in law enforcement. The city’s annual Hempfest is the best attended such event in North America.
In 2010, however, California voters rejected outright legalization by a 54-46 percent vote.
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