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Initiative 502- A push to legalize marijuana in Washington State

By pathos, Dec 23, 2011 | Updated: Dec 23, 2011 | | |
  1. pathos
    Sign Initiative 502 to put marijuana legalization before state Legislature

    Note:This is Editorial/Opinion

    Washington state and its local communities expend great resources to enforce ineffective prohibitions on the use of marijuana. Three guest columnists, including a former federal prosecutor and two former judges, urge voters to sign Initiative 502, an initiative to the Legislature that would decriminalize marijuana.

    WE are, respectively, a former federal prosecutor and two former judges who have not only observed but also enforced marijuana laws at the federal, state and local levels. As we write this, our former colleagues continue to enforce these laws, as is their duty as legal professionals and public officials.

    We ask that these laws be changed. It is time for a different, more effective approach. That's why we endorse Initiative 502, which would decriminalize marijuana in our state and make a long-overdue change for the better in public policy.

    I-502 would replace the existing marijuana-prohibition approach with a public-health approach that allows adults 21 and over to purchase limited quantities of marijuana from state-licensed and state-regulated businesses. The sale of marijuana would be taxed and the new revenue — estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually — would go instead to help meet important public needs.

    Signatures are being gathered now for I-502. If enough signatures are collected, the measure will go before the Legislature in January for their consideration and adoption or, if the Legislature doesn't approve it, it will be placed on the November 2012 general election ballot.

    Decriminalizing marijuana would allow our state and local governments to refocus limited police and court resources on more important priorities than arresting, jailing and trying adult marijuana users. It would redirect hundreds of millions of dollars that are currently flowing to criminal organizations each year to legitimate businesses. It would restore respect for our laws and law enforcement. And it would decrease the disproportionate criminalization of people of color who have historically been harmed most by the existing laws.

    We each have served as public officials, and care deeply about effective government that serves the public well. We don't see treating adult marijuana users as criminals as an appropriate use of government resources.

    Fully half of Washington state drug arrests, and almost half of drug arrests nationwide, are now for simple possession of marijuana. This is happening at a time when our nation is grappling with a crisis of over-incarceration. The U.S. represents just 5 percent of the world's population, but we house 25 percent of its inmates. Drug offenders now constitute 20 percent of our state prison population and 52 percent of our federal prison population.

    Imprisoning someone for one year in Washington state costs almost $40,000. Meanwhile, we spend just under $10,000 annually on each public-school student. Every dollar spent arresting, prosecuting and jailing a person for marijuana use is a dollar that could have been spent on education, housing, health care or other important, unmet needs.

    On top of the problem of wasted resources, there is the issue of wasted lives. Drug laws are enforced disproportionately against people of color. In Washington, an African American is three times as likely to be arrested, three times as likely to be charged and three times as likely to be convicted of a marijuana offense as a white person, despite the fact that white Washingtonians use marijuana at a higher rate.

    As with alcohol, marijuana can be abused. So our purpose is not to promote its use, but to recognize the reality that exists. The criminalization and prohibition of marijuana use has not worked any better than did the criminalization and prohibition of alcohol. It's time to end the failed experiment with marijuana prohibition and replace it with a well-considered public-health framework that dedicates money to prevention and treatment rather than incarceration.

    For those of us who believe in effective, pragmatic government that focuses resources on our highest needs and serves the greatest good, reforming our marijuana laws is a change we can make, in an era when so many other things seem intractable.
    We encourage our fellow voters to take a step in a new direction, to take a new approach.

    Katrina Pflaumer is a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington. Robert Alsdorf is a lawyer and retired state Superior Court judge. Anne Levinson is a former Municipal Court judge and former deputy mayor of Seattle.

    By Kate Pflaumer, Robert Alsdorf and Anne Levinson
    Special to The Times


    For an objective look at the initiative:



  1. Guttz
    Signatures in for initiative to legalize marijuana

    OLYMPIASupporters of an effort to legalize and regulate the recreational use of marijuana in Washington state plan to turn in signatures this week to qualify their initiative.

    New Approach Washington expects to turn in more than 355,000 signatures to the Secretary of State's Office on Thursday, said the group's campaign director, Alison Holcomb.

    An initiative to the Legislature requires at least 241,153 valid signatures of registered state voters to be certified, though the Secretary of State's Office suggests at least 320,000 as a buffer for any duplicate or invalid signatures.

    Initiative 502 would create a system of state-licensed growers, processors and stores, and impose a 25 percent excise tax at each stage. Those 21 and over could buy up to an ounce of dried marijuana; 1 pound of marijuana-infused product in solid form, such as brownies; or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids. It would be illegal for a motorist to have more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in their system. THC is the active ingredient of cannabis, or marijuana.

    "This is an issue whose time has come, both here in Washington and nationwide," Holcomb said.

    Once the initiative goes to the Legislature, lawmakers must take action during the upcoming 60-day session that begins Jan. 9 or the measure will automatically go onto the November ballot. The initiative has several high-profile sponsors, including former Seattle U.S. Attorney John McKay and travel guide Rick Steves.

    A spokeswoman for Gov. Chris Gregoire said that she has concerns about the legalization initiative because of the conflict with the federal government, which still says the drug is illegal. "Even if this were to pass, we'd still have to deal with federal law," said spokeswoman Karina Shagren.

    Shagren said that Gregoire would prefer to focus on getting clarity when it comes to medical-marijuana laws. She noted that the governor's focus is on a recent petition that she and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee filed with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration asking the agency to reclassify marijuana so doctors can prescribe it and pharmacists can fill the prescription.

    Washington state already has a voter-approved medical-marijuana law that gives doctors the right to recommend — but not prescribe — marijuana for people suffering from cancer and other conditions that cause "intractable pain."

    Some marijuana-legalization supporters are opposed to this initiative. A group called Patients Against I-502 has expressed concern that medical-marijuana users would be subject to arrest because of what they see as an overly strict intoxicated-driving limit.

    On its website, the group wrote the limit listed in the initiative would "subject patients to highly invasive blood testing, unnecessary confinement and a criminal conviction that will haunt them for life."

    "We want to legalize it too, but not at the expense of those who use cannabis to successfully treat terminal and debilitating diseases," the group said on the website.

    Another group opposed to I-502, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, cited concerns about increased use among young people, increased cases of drugged driving and conflict with federal law.

    "We just don't think that it's the right thing for state government to tell its citizens to do something that can get them arrested by federal officers," said Don Pierce, the group's executive director.

    Holcomb said she believes the initiative would withstand a court challenge and hopes "the federal government will extend I-502 at least the same respect it has extended to state medical-marijuana laws."

    Washington isn't the only state considering marijuana legalization. Colorado will vote next year if a similar measure there makes the ballot. Supporters there are expected to turn in signatures in the coming weeks to qualify for the November ballot.

    The Associated Press
  2. CaptainTripps
    [imgl=white]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=23901&stc=1&d=1325296978[/imgl]Marijuana legalization initiative signatures in

    OLYMPIA — Backers of an effort to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana use in Washington state submitted more than 340,000 signatures Thursday to try to qualify their initiative, a move protested by some legalization supporters who say the proposal would hurt medical-marijuana patients.

    About a dozen protesters carried signs that read "Legalize, not penalize," and shouted as members of New Approach turned in signatures for Initiative 502 to the Legislature.

    "New Approach, telling lies, we don't want your DUIs," the protesters chanted, occasionally interrupting the supporters' efforts to speak to reporters.

    The protesters took issue with part of the initiative that would make it illegal for drivers to have more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in their system. THC is the active ingredient of cannabis.

    They argued that medical-marijuana patients' levels vary depending on the body's tolerance, putting them at greater risk of arrest.

    I-502 would create a system of state-licensed growers, processors and stores, and impose a 25 percent excise tax at each stage. Those 21 and over could buy up to an ounce of dried marijuana; 1 pound of marijuana-infused product in solid form, such as brownies; or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids.

    Alison Holcomb, the initiative's campaign director, said it cost about $1 million to collect the signatures. The campaign turned in 341,000 signatures to the Secretary of State's Office, and plans to submit another 10,000 on Friday.

    An initiative to the Legislature requires at least 241,153 valid signatures of registered state voters to be certified, though the Secretary of State's Office suggests at least 320,000 in case of any duplicate or invalid signatures.

    Brian Zylstra, a spokesman for the secretary of state, said it would take the state a few weeks to verify them.
    Once the initiative goes to the Legislature, lawmakers have to take action during the upcoming 60-day legislative session that begins Jan. 9 or the measure automatically goes to the November ballot. The initiative has several high-profile sponsors, including former Seattle U.S. Attorney John McKay and travel guide Rick Steves.

    Initiative supporter Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, called it a common-sense initiative, but said, "I believe that my colleagues in the Legislature, however, will punt and have the voters vote on it, rather than them voting on it themselves."

    Dickerson said that the ability to tax marijuana would bring the state about $200 million a year in revenue.
    Initiative opponent Don Skakie, of Renton, said federal law would pre-empt the law proposed by the initiative and that he would rather see the state eliminate all state penalties tied to marijuana. The drug remains illegal for any use under federal law.
    "When you eliminate penalties, there's no new law to conflict with federal law," he said.

    Washington state already has a voter-approved medical-marijuana law that gives doctors the right to recommend — but not prescribe — marijuana for people suffering from cancer and other conditions that cause "intractable pain."

    Several patients protesting the petition submission Thursday said they[imgr=white]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=23902&stc=1&d=1325298742[/imgr] feared their driving privileges would be taken away and that they planned to start their own initiative effort to counter I-502. Mimi Meiwes, a registered nurse who uses medical marijuana for her terminal-stage kidney disease, said the impact on patients would be "absolutely devastating."
    "It will make it illegal for cannabis patients to drive a motor vehicle in the state of Washington," she said.

    Meiwes said that there is no normal THC level for medical-marijuana patients, and that it varies from patient to patient.
    "As you increase those dosages, the body gets used to it, then you can take higher doses and still function with absolutely no impairment," she said.

    Meiwes said she and other opponents are considering collecting signatures for their own initiative to counter I-502.
    Washington isn't the only state considering marijuana legalization.
    Colorado will vote next year if a similar measure there makes the ballot. Supporters there are expected to turn in signatures in the coming weeks to qualify for the November ballot.

    The Associated Press
    Originally published Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 8:45 PM

  3. CaptainTripps
    New poll shows voters split on legalizing marijuana

    A new statewide poll shows voters evenly divided on the question of legalizing marijuana as the state Legislature takes up the question next week.

    The Elway Research poll of 411 randomly selected voters found 48 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed to legalization, which is likely headed to the November 2012 ballot in the form of Initiative 502. The margin of error is 5 percentage points.

    The initiative, run by a campaign called New Approach Washington, heads to the Legislature first, but will be on the presidential ballot unless lawmakers approve it.

    The support softened from an Elway poll in July, when 54 percent, asked a[imgr=white]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=23990&stc=1&d=1325731494[/imgr] more general question about marijuana legalization, expressed support. Pollster Stuart Elway said that downward trend should concern initiative sponsors. Conventional wisdom says an initiative should start with support in the mid-60s because undecided voters usually vote against ballot measures.

    "If you're a supporter, it's going the wrong way," he said.The initiative would legalize and tax one-ounce sales of marijuana to people 21 and over, and authorize privately-owned, state-licensed marijuana retail stores and grow operations. Washington voters in 1998 allowed medical marijuana for authorized patients, but they haven't had a chance to vote on full legalization.

    Elway said the campaign needs to sway women voters, who were far less likely to support legalization (52% men, 43% women), and to ensure young voters (69% of voters under 35 support) turn out to vote.Alison Holcomb, campaign director for New Approach, noted the Elway poll question was broadly worded, without mentioning provisions in I-502 -- including an estimated $215 million in marijuana tax revenue earmarked for health and drug-abuse prevention programs -- that are popular with voters."Our research over the years have shown us that voters really care about what the details are," she said.

    New Approach, using paid signature gatherers, turned in more than 341,000 signatures to the Washington Secretary of State in late December. The prime opposition thus far has been medical-marijuana patients, who say I-502's driving-under-the-influence provisions would inhibit their ability to work and live while using legally authorized medicine.

    Posted by Jonathan Martin
    January 4, 2012 at 10:10 AM

  4. Terrapinzflyer
    From my many years in WA I believe that the legislature is virtually powerless to alter voter passed iniatives (true in most of the voter initiative states) and only the state courts can alter them if they violate the state constitution.

    Can anyone in WA speak more to this- and specifically whether the DUI/DWI provision and the ban on personal growing would be inviolate unless overturned by the courts or amended by a subsequent voter iniative?

    Also- can anyone find any discussion on whether this would supercede the medical marijuan law in the state. ( I am assuming since dui/dwi was not covered by the medical mj iniative the limits would apply, but am unclear of the aspect regarding growing. )
  5. CaptainTripps
    They can be altered or repealed after two years by the legislature. I also believe that there are some circumstances where they can be altered even earlier, but I don't know what those circumstances are.

    The big problem is the legislature is very hesitant to go against the will of the voters. That being said, I don't think that it would be that hard to get some "fine tuning" done, if it is based on better science.

    As for conflicts with the medical marijuana laws that is more tricky. The question would be whether or not the courts saw a conflict. If there is a conflict then the new law would supersede the medical marijuana law. However, a court might differentiate between the two laws. They might say that medical marijuana and recreational marijuana are two different things. They might say there is no conflict as the new law only applies to recreational marijuana. It is my understanding that the courts are reluctant to overturn or invalidate prior laws unless there is a clear conflict or it can be shown that the new laws intent was to modify the prior law.

    My guess would be that medical marijuana patients would still be able to grow, but dui standards would apply to everyone. If you were driving on say Valium the courts would determine if you were impaired or not. Having a prescription would not be a determining factor.

    OK, I found the following, I hope this helps.

    Passage of time

    Some states allow the legislature to amend or repeal initiated state statutes , but only after a certain amount of time has elapsed. These states are:

    Alaska Can amend immediately; must wait 2 years to repeal

    Nevada Must wait 3 years

    North Dakota For 7 years, a 2/3rd vote is required to change.

    Washington For 2 years, a 2/3rds vote is required to change (within two years)
  6. CaptainTripps
    Marijuana legalization measure certified

    OLYMPIA, Wash. —
    A measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana is likely to be[imgr=white]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=24460&stc=1&d=1327739765[/imgr] on the November ballot, after the secretary of the state's office certified the initiative Friday, saying the campaign had turned in enough valid petition signatures.

    Initiative 502 now goes to the Legislature, but lawmakers are not likely to take up the issue during the short 60-day session that ends on March 8, meaning it would automatically appear on the ballot in the fall election. "It's time to for a new approach to marijuana policy in Washington state," Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a written statement released by New Approach, the legalization campaign. "Passing this measure will free up law enforcement resources, allowing police and prosecutors to focus on violent criminals instead of low-level marijuana offenders."

    David Ammons, a spokesman for Secretary of State Sam Reed, said a random 3 percent sampling of the nearly 355,000 petition signatures turned in last month indicated sponsors had nearly 278,000 valid signatures, more than the 241,153 necessary to qualify.

    The measure was provisionally certified to the Legislature last week, while the signature check was still under way, so the state House and Senate could assign the measure to committees for further action. So far, neither the House nor Senate has scheduled any hearings. Ammons said the Legislature has several options. It can pass the measure as submitted; reject it and let it go to the ballot this fall; ignore it and let it go to the ballot; or let it go to the ballot along with a legislative alternative.

    I-502 would create a system of state-licensed growers, processors and stores, and impose a 25 percent excise on wholesale and retail sales of marijuana. People 21 and over could buy up to an ounce of dried marijuana; one pound of marijuana-infused product in solid form, such as brownies; or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids.

    The initiative has several high-profile sponsors, including former Seattle U.S. Attorney John McKay and travel guide guru Rick Steves.
    Washington state already has a voter-approved medical marijuana law that gives doctors the right to recommend - but not technically prescribe - marijuana for people suffering from cancer and other conditions that cause intractable pain.

    Some medical marijuana patients oppose I-502, taking issue with an element of the initiative that would make it illegal for a motorist to have more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in their system. THC is the active ingredient of cannabis. They argue that medical marijuana patients' levels vary depending on the body's tolerance, putting them at greater risk of arrest.

    Those opponents filed a counter initiative proposal earlier this month that would provide medical marijuana patients with protection against arrest and classify hemp as an agricultural product.

    Originally published Friday, January 27, 2012 at 3:38 PM
    Associated Press

  7. CaptainTripps
    Marijuana legalization initiative set to go on Nov. ballot

    OLYMPIA — An initiative seeking to legalize and regulate the recreational use of marijuana will be decided by voters, state lawmakers said Thursday. If passed, Initiative 502 would make Washington the first state to legalize recreational use of marijuana. It would place the state at odds with federal law, which bans marijuana use of all kinds.

    Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, who chairs the House State Government & Tribal Affairs Committee that was considering the initiative, said the Legislature would not act on it, meaning it will instead automatically appear on the November ballot. "We will have more opportunities on the campaign trail this year to discuss this issue," Hunt said.

    Because the measure proposes new taxes on marijuana production and consumption, the Legislature would need a two-thirds majority to pass it.
    The initiative was certified by the Secretary of State's office last month after pro-legalization campaigners turned in more than the 241,153 necessary valid signatures.

    The measure would create a system of state-licensed growers, processors and stores, and impose a 25 percent excise tax at each stage. People ages 21 and older could buy up to an ounce of dried marijuana, one pound of marijuana-infused product in solid form, such as brownies, or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids.

    Speaking at a joint House and Senate work session Thursday, backers of the measure said it would allow the state to regulate marijuana use, raise tax revenues and squeeze the powerful drug cartels controlling the black market. "Locking people up and putting handcuffs on them is not the way to resolve our society's issues with regard to marijuana," said John McKay, a former U.S. attorney for Seattle, who has become an outspoken advocate for marijuana legalization.

    Charles Mandigo, the former head of the Seattle FBI office, also spoke in favor of the measure. "It is the money, not the drugs, that drive these criminal organizations and street gangs," Mandigo said. "Take away the money and you take away the criminal element."

    McKay and Mandigo conceded that getting criminals out of the marijuana business would take time. Opponents said legalization would likely increase marijuana use by teenagers, and they questioned whether criminal gangs would be seriously impacted. "There is a thriving industry in place," said Steve Freng, a federal official helping coordinate Washington state's drug-prevention and treatment efforts. "It's silly to think the cartels will simply pack up and leave the state with their tails between their legs."

    Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza argued that it would be better to instead pressure the federal government to change marijuana's designation from a Schedule One to a Schedule Two drug, meaning it would still be classified as having a high potential for abuse but would also be recognized as having legitimate medical uses. "If we start with the pharmaceutical end and move forward from there, I think what a great start we've already done," Snaza said.

    Some medical-marijuana advocates oppose the initiative because it would place a limit on motorists' TCH levels — 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood — that they say doesn't accurately measure impairment. THC is the active ingredient of cannabis. Such concerns are overblown, said Dr. Kim Thorburn, Spokane County's former top public-health official, who favors the initiative. "In order to be stopped for impaired driving you have to show impairment," she said. "This is not a concern for medical-marijuana users and has been kind of a red herring that has been raised."

    Activists in a handful of other states, including California, Oregon and Montana, are attempting to get the legalization of recreational marijuana use on the ballot, though none has yet secured the necessary signatures.
    Colorado legalization activists were about 2,500 signatures shy of getting an initiative on that state's ballot as of last week. Their deadline is Feb. 15.

    Washington is among 16 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized the medical use of marijuana.

    The Associated Press
    Originally published Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 5:44 PM

  8. CaptainTripps
    Initiative 502, to license and tax marijuana: a political, not a legal, fight

    Seattle Times opinion columnist Bruce Ramsey argues that Initiative[imgr=white]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=25191&stc=1&d=1331773610[/imgr] 502, to decriminalize marijuana, is questionable law but good lobbying.

    Regarding marijuana, Washington is a forerunner state. In the last half of the 1990s voters here, and in Alaska, Oregon and California, were the first to accept cannabis as medical treatment. Now a third of the states allow it — and thoughts turn to the next step: legalization.

    For those who want to do it, the question is: How?

    Change federal law? Not enough push for that. Not yet. But state passage of medical-marijuana laws is also pushful, and the feds have given ground. And this year measures are on the ballot in Colorado and Washington to push the boundaries further.

    The effort here, Initiative 502, would license and tax a private marijuana industry. Adults over 21 would be allowed 1 ounce bought from a licensed store. Users would be allowed to drive with marijuana's active ingredient, THC, in their blood in amounts less than 5 nanograms per milliliter.

    Now that this is on the table, there is a sudden drawing back. For all the concern with prisons, gangs and deaths in Mexico, many users here don't feel a big risk. We have a marijuana industry, lawful or otherwise, and people in it worry about being put out of business. Users can buy good product at $200 to $300 an ounce, either from the black market or a gray-market dispensary. In either case it is unregulated by the state Liquor Control Board, and a lot of people like it that way.

    There is also concern about the DUI standard. Seattle marijuana attorney Douglas Hiatt says regular users, especially medical patients, develop a tolerance. They can have more than 5 nanograms, much more, and drive safely. Under current law they won't pull a DUI unless a prosecutor can show they were impaired, but under I-502, the prosecutor doesn't have to prove that anymore. Five nanograms and you're done. Defenders of the 5-nanogram standard use political arguments, not scientific ones. That is telling.

    In the past two years, Hiatt backed initiatives that offered much fuller legalization than I-502, but the measures were too radical for donors and failed to make the ballot. This year's more cautious effort has attracted high-profile supporters: travel showman Rick Steves, former U.S. attorneys John McKay and Kate Pflaumer, and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes. Already I-502 has attracted $1.1 million in private money and has had no trouble collecting signatures.

    For legalizers, the argument for I-502 is that it's on the ballot. And I think that's the right argument. Holmes calls I-502 an effort of "starting a conversation" with the federal government. The measure conflicts with federal law, and the feds can have it thrown out in court if they want. But this is not a legal battle really. It is a political fight.

    An initiative is a way for the people to say what they want. Their audience is their political leaders. If I-502 passes, politicians will take notice, particularly if it passes big. Some who have privately believed that marijuana ought to be legalized — and there are many, in both parties — will speak up. Others will develop a sudden interest.

    If I-502 fails, particularly if it fails big, the opposite happens. Politicians will conclude that the people don't want it, and that the issue is off the table. If you want a change, you have to get your issue on the table. I-502 does that. As law, it is flawed; as lobbying, it is about right. And lobbying is what it is

    By .Bruce Ramsey
    Originally published Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 4:04 PM

    This is a very astute editorial. The author makes an excellent point that many people would like to keep things as they are. Here in the "land of the indoor sun" marijuana has traditionally been a low risk, high reward enterprise. The standard sentencing range for a first offender marijuana grower is 0 to 6 months. An exceptional sentence can be handed down for large grows, but that usually involves 100 plants or more. This combined with the fact that marijuana offenses are generally a low law enforcement priority adds to the low risk. Now with medical marijuana and "authorization mills" it is becoming even less risky. With authorization you can grow up to 15 plants and have up 18 oz's of dry bud. Become an authorized care giver and you can do the same thing. It is my understanding you can be both a patient and a caregiver. With the DUI standards and the taxation this initiative is probably unnecessary regulation. The reason to vote for this is to start the fight with the feds over states rights, not to make things better for the marijuana people of Washington State. The reason this just might pass is the moderates in the state know that the marijuana market is booming and totally unregulated., with the possible exceptions of the dispensaries. Voting for this is a vote for regulation, not a vote for freedom. Freedom would be to do nothing and let things continue to move to de facto legalization.

    That being said, I will vote for this to start the national debate.


  9. CaptainTripps
    State: Potential I-502 pot revenue double what supporters predict

    A state analysis says an initiative to legalize marijuana could raise at least $560 million a year in new taxes.

    A marijuana-legalization initiative on the November ballot could raise at least $560 million a year in new taxes — well more than double what the Initiative 502 campaign itself had predicted. That estimate, produced this week by the state Office of Financial Management (OFM), suggests that a legalized marijuana system would raise at least $130 million more a year in taxes than the current state liquor monopoly.

    But I-502's fiscal impact also appears to be based on guesses, because no state has legalized and regulated marijuana for recreational use. The state analysis, a fiscal note for lawmakers, is the first independent attempt to pin down the numbers since I-502 qualified for the ballot. It briefly addresses one unanswered question should I-502 pass: What would the federal government do? The analysis said revenues would be "adversely impacted" if federal authorities cracked down, as they threatened to do when California voters were mulling legalization in 2010. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.

    The initiative, the first marijuana-legalization measure on a statewide Washington ballot, has drawn national attention because of a roster of supporters that includes two former U.S. attorneys, an FBI supervisor, judges and public-health experts. It would legalize and heavily tax 1-ounce sales of marijuana to people 21 and over from state-licensed stores. Most of the revenue — at least $433 million the first full year — would come from the 25 percent surcharge at each step from grower to retailer, the OFM estimated. Business and sales taxes would raise an estimated $130 million more.

    The analysis doesn't yet estimate revenue from newly legalized hemp production, or cost savings from decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. A fuller analysis is under way. But this analysis provides a guesstimate of what a legal marijuana industry might look like. It estimates 100 state-licensed growers supplying more than 300 marijuana stores that — based on federal drug-use surveys — would sell 187,666 pounds to at least 363,000 customers.

    But the state analysis includes a second scenario, with 10 percent higher consumption. In that case, the total tax revenue would be $606 million. By fiscal year 2017, the revenue could be near two-thirds of a billion dollars. Regardless, the state estimates are far higher than the $215 million that I-502's campaign estimated would be raised from the excise taxes.Campaign director Alison Holcomb said those estimates were based on a previous legislative proposal, which predicted lower consumption rates. "The campaign has always wanted to be conservative in the estimates on the revenue because we honestly don't know what a legal marijuana market will look like," said Holcomb, previously the drug-policy coordinator for ACLU of Washington.

    The analysis was prepared by Gov. Chris Gregoire's budget staff, but Gregoire does not support I-502, said spokeswoman Karina Shagren.
    "This doesn't resolve the conflict with federal law," said Shagren. Gregoire instead has petitioned to reclassify marijuana from a federal Schedule I drug to Schedule II, allowing it to be prescribed and sold in pharmacies for medical use.

    Thus far, opposition to I-502 is led by a group of medical-marijuana patients who say the initiative's proposed driving-under-the-influence provisions would make it impossible for many patients to legally drive. That group, No on 502, had raised no money as of late February. I-502 has raised $1.2 million since last May, but spent nearly $760,000 on paid signature gathering to qualify for the ballot, according to public-disclosure reports.

    By Jonathan Martin
    Seattle Times staff reporter
    Originally published March 21, 2012 at 8:09 PM | Page modified March 21, 2012 at 11:14 PM
  10. CaptainTripps
    Pot activists march to stop legalization initiative

    A group of activists who want to legalize marijuana, but oppose Initiative 502, the marijuana-legalization initiative proposed for the November ballot, marched from Volunteer Park to Westlake Park in Seattle on Saturday.

    The group is a splinter of the increasingly mainstream advocates for marijuana legalization in the state. Supporters of I-502 include the state Democratic party, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, and former U.S. Attorney John McKay. The group that marched Saturday said marijuana should be legalized, but not by regulating and taxing it, as I-502 would do. “An eraser is what we need — a giant eraser,” said Dawn Darington, who says her cannabis treatment cured her breast cancer.

    Darington and the group, which marched and gave speeches at both parks, are concerned legalization would attract federal attention, leading to a crackdown. They also oppose limits on growing your own, sharing, and possession and say the DUI limits in the proposed law are too strict

    Posted by Emily Heffter on May 12, 2012 at 5:32 PM


    The above is the greatest threat to legalization in Washington. It is not from the anti-pot folks, but from the naive and IMO greedy, pro-pot folks. They want it all and actually think they can get it all and get it soon. This initiative while clearly flawed it has the right support and the financial backing to get passed. The anti-pot folks are not in a strong position at this time. History can be made that has the potential to not only change things in Washington State, or in the United States but the entire world. The main reason marijuana is illegal worldwide is due to pressure from the United States. Once the US moves toward legalization much of the rest of the world will follow. The key to legalization in the US is by a state by state movement. When states legalize and the world does not fall apart, others will follow. It is inevitable that if enough states legalize, the feds will back off.

    The opportunity is now. If this passes it can be modified in a short two year period. The best move in my opinion is to pass this and then work to make improvements in the future. Much of the current tolerance toward marijuana is due to the fact that politicians think that being pro reform is being on the right side of history. If this initiative fails, not only will this put legalization on the back burner for quite some time, it might even send the message that they mis-preceived public opinion and give encouragement to those who not only want to stop future reform, but to repeal much of the progress that has been made.

    There have been other, better legalization plans in the past that could not even make the ballot. My guess is that if this fails that is what the near future will hold. Better plans that will not become law.

  11. stewbs
    The group organized for yes on 502 need to get the medical marijuana folks on board. They are against the initiative right now. Hopefully that will change.
  12. CaptainTripps
    Legalizing marijuana would bring Washington state a windfall in new tax dollars — if the federal government doesn't object.

    The initiative to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in Washington was estimated on Friday to raise up to $1.9 billion in new tax revenue over five years — or zero. The wild swing, included in an analysis by the state Office of Financial Management, reflects broad uncertainty about the potential federal intervention in an initiative that would set up the nation's first regulated market for recreational marijuana use. The sky-high revenue estimate, which was previously disclosed in March, is based on an assumption that 363,000 customers in Washington would consume 187,000 pounds of marijuana in new state-license retail shops if Initiative 502 were approved in the Nov. 6 election.

    If it does pass, I-502 would earmark $227 million a year of new marijuana taxes for the state's basic health plan and $113 million a year for drug research, prevention and treatment. Statewide administrative costs, covering such things as training police and licensing, would be more than $16 million a year.
    But the fiscal analysis makes clear the "significant uncertainties related to federal enforcement of federal criminal laws" outlawing marijuana. The analysis says that federal law enforcement could possibly target state-licensed growers and retailers, which "may prevent the development of a functioning marijuana market."

    Attached to the analysis is a 2010 letter from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, sent as California voters were considering legalizing marijuana, vowing to "vigorously enforce the CSA (Controlled Substances Act) against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture and distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law." Alison Holcomb, campaign manager for I-502, said the federal response may depend on the margin of victory. She noted that the federal government has only sporadically intervened in the medical-marijuana industry, and usually only when operators appear to be abusing state law. "Voters need to know that the federal government is giving us the room to show what we want to do," she said.

    This analysis tried to tally some costs and savings for legalized marijuana but lacked data to estimate savings from fewer drug prosecutions. In 2011, 9,308 charges were filed in local and superior courts statewide for possession of less than 40 grams, which would be legal under I-502. A new DUI threshold for marijuana — a provision deeply unpopular with medical-marijuana patients — would likely raise nearly $4 million in fees from drivers charged under the provision.

    On Friday, the state Official of Financial Management also released an analysis of Initiative 1240, which would allow the creation of charter schools. I-1240 would cost $3.1 million over five years, mostly to establish an application process, and to run an oversight commission.The initiative would authorize as many as 40 charter schools, which are free, public, independent and can hire nonunion teachers. They would be funded the same way as traditional public schools, on a per-student basis

    By Jonathan Martin
    Seattle Times staff reporter
    Originally published Saturday, August 11, 2012 at 12:50 PM
    Staff reporter Brian M. Rosenthal contributed to this report
  13. talltom
    Washington seems to be in a situation similar to where California was two years ago with a marijuana-legalization law. However, many of us, myself included, (1) were overly optimistic that the initiative would pass and (2) were not aware how strongly the Federal government would object if it had passed based on their on-going crackdown of medical marijuana dispensaries. What is different about the Washington situation that might lead to optimism that it will pass and, if so, that the Federal government will let it stand.
  14. CaptainTripps
    Well Tom, what is different about the Washington initiative is the people behind it. They are basically ex prosecutors and law enforcement types. This not something put together by a bunch of hippy types. We have had many of those over the years and they never even make the ballot. This has money behind it. Hey, we even have TV commercials. It is actually a pretty good one, but you know that as I read your post on it. The situation here in Washington is that at least in the western part of the state, the marijuana laws are being pretty selectively enforced. Cops will usually not arrest unless you have a smart mouth or they have you on something else. Prosecutors are willing to cut good deals, that don't involve snitching. Get caught with a few plants and plead down to misdemeanor possession. Even if you have to take the felony, you can probably avoid any jail time beyond the original arrest. In Seattle dispensaries are everywhere and authorizations are easy to get ,despite the restrictive language of the actual law.

    What we have in Washington right now is a wide open marijuana scene. The dispensaries have tended to be good neighbors and have kept things relatively low key. There seems to be very little serious anti-pot sentiment. Very little will to do the kind of crack down that would be required to make any kind of dent in the pot scene. The laws on the books are pretty liberal as it is . Unless an exceptional sentence is handed down, the standard sentencing range for growing or selling pot is 0 to 6 months. It is a virtual paradise for those involved in this illegal enterprise. And that is the point of this initiative, the people behind it want to take the profits away from the "criminals" and put it in the hands of the taxpayers. This proposal is also strong on regulation. This is about trying to control something that is out of control. Many voters see that prohibition has only succeeded for those violating the law. They are willing to give regulation a chance.

    What is similar to California is that the medical marijuana community is divided about this initiative. In my opinion the anti pot forces have neither the motivation or the numbers to stop this. If this fails it will be due to the fact that pro pot people vote against it. There are a lot of people who smoke or deal pot, that like it the way it is. Also many would rather wait till a bill more to their liking comes along.

    As for the part about the feds, not quite sure why the optimism. Maybe they think Obama will be less chickenshit in his second term. Maybe they see the momentum. Medical pot is moving steadily along and three states are voting to legalize recreational use. Public opinion is moving in favor of legalization. This is especially true of young people. All you need to legalize is time and the passing of the pre baby-boomer generation. Other countries are looking at reform. Maybe the politicians will decide to be on the right side of history.

    But even if the feds do interfere it will start the debate in earnest about states rights. Why would any congressman take the political risk of supporting letting states decide for themselves when all states currently prohibit pot. Even if it can't be sold or taxed, the citizens of Washington will still be able to legally possess small amounts of marijuana. They will be living not under decrim, but legalization. As a practical matter the feds don't prosecute for possession of small amounts.

    I guess the reason that I think this will pass is that this is not your typical pro-pot bill. It is about regulation and taking the money out of the the hands of those who break the law. Yes, other initiatives talk about this, but if you look at the people behind this bill, you know that that is their primary motivation. This is also clear to many of the voting public.
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