Newsbrief: Seattle Voters Tell Police to Make Marijuana Possession Lowest Priority 9/19/03

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While a Seattle effort to impose a ten-cent tax on every cup of espresso sold in the latte-crazed city made the national news by being voted down Tuesday, the media had absolutely nothing to say about another ballot issue that passed. I-75, sponsored by the Sensible Seattle Coalition (, which includes some of the same folks who put on the city's annual Hemp Fest, requires police and prosecutors to "make cases involving marijuana offenses, in which the marijuana was intended for adult personal use, the city's lowest law enforcement priority."

The measure passed with 58% of the vote. "It's very positive to see that a solid majority of the residents in Seattle do not want to waste law resources prosecuting marijuana users," national NORML head Keith Stroup told Reuters, adding that the vote was a key step in the eventual legalization of the herb.

The vote came despite a visit earlier this month from drug czar John Walters to lobby against the measure. Warning that any law forcing police to ignore pot would increase teen drug use, Walters called the initiative "a silly and irresponsible game."

While Walters, police and prosecutors opposed the initiative, it was endorsed not only by the usual suspects, including the ACLU of Washington, but also the King County Democrats and the League of Women Voters of Seattle.

Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske told the Seattle Times that the measure would not affect police work on the street because marijuana possession is not a priority. That remark is typical of police confronted with decriminalized or legalized pot possession, whether in Seattle, Anchorage, or Toronto. They oppose the measure, then say it doesn't matter because they're not busy arresting marijuana users. One question to these police: If you aren't arresting those 700,000 marijuana smokers every year, then who is?

Next week's Drug War Chronicle will feature a recap of how Sensible Seattle achieved this victory and discussion of the new law's implications. In the meantime, you can read the Alternet story "The State of Drug Reform" at for further information.

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Issue #303, 9/19/03 Editorial: Don't Stop There | A Clean, Well-Lit Place to Shoot Dope: Western Hemisphere's First Government-Approved Safe Injection Site Opens in Vancouver | And Then There Were Four: Canadian Marijuana Possession Laws Crumble | Britain's Pending Cannabis Decrim Will Allow for Some Arrests | More Than Just Memories: Cheryl Miller Memorial Project in DC Next Week | Newsbrief: Seattle Voters Tell Police to Make Marijuana Possession Lowest Priority | Newsbrief: Marijuana Legal in Alaska, But Attorney General Orders Cops to Confiscate It, Work with Feds to Build Cases | Newsbrief: Ecstasy Scandal Grows as Second Study Retracted | Newsbrief: Drug Policy Alliance Issues Report on Changes in State Drug Laws | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: Reefer Madness in the Heart of Africa | Newsbrief: Campaign Comments -- John Edwards on Industrial Hemp | Newsbrief: Murderous Thai Drug War in Final Drive to be "Drug Free" | Newsbrief: UN Agency Calls for Change in Colombia Drug War Strategy | Current Action Alerts: Medical Marijuana, Plan Colombia, HEA, Ashcroft's Attack on Judicial Discretion | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | Errata: Dutch MedMj, Ecstasy Study Stories Last Two Weeks | The Reformer's Calendar

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