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Marijuana Legalization: With No Cash, Doubts Grow Over Whether Washington State Initiative Will Gather Enough Signatures

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #636)
Drug War Issues

After a weeks-long courtship with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) failed to be consummated with cash, organizers of the Washington state marijuana legalization initiative, I-1068 are, on one hand, vowing to fight on, and on the other, suggesting the effort could be called off soon for lack of funds.

Seattle Hempfest, 2009
Sensible Washington campaign chairman Doug Hiatt told the Associated Press Monday that the group had gathered 100,000 signatures to get the initiative on the ballot, but they need 241,000 valid signatures by July 2 to make the ballot. The group had been counting on the SEIU to help with paid signature gathering, but on Monday, the SEIU said it had decided not to support the effort.

Adam Glickman, vice president of SEIU Local 775, told the AP the union had contributed $10,000 to the campaign for polling and signature vetting and that research had suggested having the initiative on the November ballot could increase liberal turnout in the fall. But Sensible Washington's lack of financial resources raised questions about whether it could in fact get out the vote come November.

He also cited the ACLU of Washington's opposition to the initiative. The ACLU opposes the initiative because, it says, it does not provide a regulatory framework. The ACLU is correct -- the initiative simply removes marijuana offenses from the criminal code -- but Sensible Washington argues that if the initiative were to pass, the legislature and local authorities would be quick to act to set up a regulatory regime.

"There's some merit in the campaign," Glickman said. "It seemed worth looking at as a good policy proposal. But as we looked more into it, there were too many questions about the policy, too much division among the stakeholders. We concluded it wasn't the right time to get involved."

"It's really unfortunate, but you cannot do this without money," Hiatt said of the SEIU's decision. "I never intended I-1068 to be an all-volunteer effort. We'll make a decision in a couple days about whether we're going to go forward."

Campaign spokesman and initiative coauthor Philip Dawdy was less fatalistic. "Politics in this state stinks," he said in a press release Monday. "Marijuana smells better. It's disappointing that SEIU and others have walked away from us, but this campaign will fight on because the issue is simply too important."

"If we get some more volunteers, we can legalize marijuana in Washington State," added Jeffrey Steinborn, an initiative coauthor and Seattle-based attorney who has defended marijuana users for three decades.

The group said it has 20,000 petitions in circulation -- enough for 400,000 signatures -- and is urging activists to send them in sooner rather than later. But now, it's beginning to look like Sensible Washington's uphill battle just got a lot steeper.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Harry Anslinger (not verified)

The ACLU is too busy defending transgender terrorist rights to get behind a marijuana initiative that would benefit hundreds of thousands of mainstream marijuana consumers. I thought the ACLU was all about defending the rights of Americans, not creating government regulatory regimes. For shame.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 8:05pm Permalink
borden (not verified)

ACLU-WA is not too busy to supprt the initiative, they have strategic disagreements with the initiative as written. I'm not taking that side of this, but aren't they entitled to their opinion? They have specific reasons that they've stated, based on their experience and judgment.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 10:16pm Permalink
TButler (not verified)

I know you do not live in Washington State and probably do not understand our initiative process. Most people in our state do not fully understand it. I know because I have to explain it to many people every day. In Washington State every initiative must have a single clear concise objective. There can be no “and” in it.

The ACLU’s argument is that they can not support the initiative because it only legalizes marijuana, it does not setup any regulatory structure. If the initiative contained a regulatory structure as the ACLU proposes the Secretary of State of Washington State would have struck down the initiative. So the ACLU’s has said it supports what these people are doing (legalization) but it does not support these particular peoples attempt.

Our house had two bills that did not get out of committee this year, one a legalization bill and one a decriminalization bill. If this gets on the ballot and passes the legalization bill will be the basis for our new regulatory structure.

The actions of the ACLU against our campaign have convinced me, and dozens of people I talk to every day as I circulate I-1068, that the real interest of the ACLU is not to legalize marijuana but to make money of pretending that they want marijuana legalized.

Sensible Washington will have this I-1068 on the ballot this year.

Currently it is polling at 52% for and 35% against you do the math.

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 3:03am Permalink
borden (not verified)

TButler, I suggest you look up the text of I-692, the Washington state medical marijuana initiative from 1998. The original language can be found on the web site and doubtless many other places. The initiative went into great detail in describing a regulatory structure for medical marijuana in Washington. It was not invalidated, it passed, and the rest is history. A regulatory structure in a legalization initiative would therefore also pass legal muster. If it describes how legalization is to be done, it is still doing just one thing, just as the detailed regulation in the medical marijuana initiative only did one basic thing.

I have not studied this issue sufficiently to be able to take one side or the other on this, in part because I don't control resources of a level that would be likely to make the difference. I respect the efforts of volunteers like yourself, and if it makes the ballot we will enthusiastically support it. I instinctively lean toward supporting it now.

But when you characterize the positions of advocates who disagree with you on strategy as false, as you have done, you're doing something pretty disrespectful, and it's not backed up by facts. As I've shown above, you were factually mistaken about how far initiatives in Washington can go in detailing new laws. You do not know more than the full-time attorney head of the ACLU-WA's Drug Law Reform Project who has worked there for years, or the other attorneys and activists there, and just because you don't like their stance on this strategy question does not prove that you are right and they are wrong, much less that there is anything false about their stance.

By all means get those signatures if you can do it, but don't throw stones at others who are also devoting themselves to this issue and who just happen to disagree with you on something.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 3:42am Permalink
TButler (not verified)

Here is the stated purpose of I-692

“Qualifying patients with terminal or debilitating illnesses who, in the judgment of their physicians, would benefit from the medical use of marijuana, shall not be found guilty of a crime under state law for their possession and limited use of marijuana;

Persons who act as primary caregivers to such patients shall also not be found guilty of a crime under state law for assisting with the medical use of marijuana; and

Physicians also be excepted from liability and prosecution for the authorization of marijuana use to qualifying patients for whom, in the physician's professional judgment, medical marijuana may prove beneficial”

Our medical marijuana in Washington State is a disaster.

There is no regulation in the initiative it creates a medical marijuana defense in court and nothing more. This is called an affirmative defense. Please look at the Washington State Supreme Court ruling from March of this year. It makes quite clear that the police do not have to honor any document proving a patient to be in need of Marijuana, the DA does not, not even the judge has to listen to a medical marijuana defense until the defendant sits in front of a jury.

The only allowance for cultivation is by the sick or dying patient or a designated provider that can only provide for one patent at a time. This insures that any patient can only get there medicine legally from people who know very little about what they are doing. There is no provision for dispensaries although there are a few that operate illegally.

It also did not spell out how much marijuana was allowed to be possessed or cultivated. Our governor at the request of law enforcement decided that an amount needed to be defined for possessed or cultivated. Our medical marijuana community came up with a 100 sq foot limit, but our governor decided 15 plants in any stage were adequate for any sick person in the state.

Please show me any where in this initiative there is any regulation of medical marijuana, there is none.

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 5:11am Permalink

Yeah, Dave is wrong about the medical mj law in Washington state, now long ago. There wasn't a 'legal frame-work'...

But, that isn't the issue at hand IMO. And sadly, it's not really about I-1068, it's about how systems work. Social change is big business in America. There's hundreds of books on it. I have one I go to a lot. It's called "Doing Democracy" and written by Bill Moyer, (not the TV guy, that is Bill Moyers). This Bill is with the Backbone campaign and other great projects. I like him. I like studying this book he wrote, especially in 'times like these.'

There's a group of charts in this book, and overviews and identifies stages of a movement. I don't intend a book review, so will jump to the last few movement stages, that I think sort of sums things up. Where we are at, why things have worked out the way they have and there wasn't funding for paid signature gatherers, and some groups took sides against it. I've watched this initiative get 'tried in a court of law' till it's made me dizzy. You don't see that a lot. So, back to the book I go to when I don't understand the actions of "The Movement."

Stages 1 - 3 take us from normal times, to seeing the problem and then a movement emerges. The movement is usually emerged when about 20-30% of the public 'see the problem.'

Enter Stage 4 -- Washington state had a trigger event when the legislature failed to act and discuss reasonable bills... That was Stage 4 -- our Trigger event. Yep.

Stage 5 is a time of "Perception of Failure" - the details can be summed up easily -- the activists get discouraged!

Stage 6 is called "Majority Public Opinion" and its the stage just before you win, : - ) - so I quoted this entire list here for anyone still with me.

* Majority oppose present conditions and powerholder policies
• Show how the problem and policies affect all sectors of society
• Involve mainstream citizens and institutions in addressing the problem
• Problem put on political agenda
• Promote alternatives
• Counter each new powerholder strategy
• Demonology: powerholders promote public's fear of alternatives and activism
• Promote a paradigm shift, not just reforms
• Retrigger events happen, reenacting stage 4 (lots of grassroots activity) again.

I think stage 7 is soon -- we've recycled through stages 4-6 a few times in the last decade. So much so, that a lot of our colleagues are powerholders now. Amazing....

In Struggle,

PS -- Isn't doing democracy a pain in the ass -- if it weren't for people like Renatta Rollins and Angela Johnson -- organizers who do extraordinary feats??? So, I-1068 isn't over, and even when it is, win or fail -- we've built an infrastructure of people deeply committed to a big shift -- not just 'reforms'. Stop the drug war.

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 12:54pm Permalink
borden (not verified)


I have read the I-692 language. It contains an extensive description of medical marijuana's regulatory framework in Washington state. It simply does. Denying that is like saying that two plus two does not equal four -- it's a bizarre and nonsensical thing to say.

Yes, there is some regulation that was left up to the government to fill in later, and yes, the more you specify, the more that opponents will have to look for problems in, but those are different arguments.

As I said before, I lean toward supporting the I-1068 signature gatjering, not having studied the question in detail, and of course we'll support it if it gets to the ballot. My complaint is only about TButler's arrogant unwillingness to consider the possibility that someone who disagrees with him might have a legitimate strategic reason. Of course ACLU has reasons, they are the reasons they've communicated. Disagree with them if you want to, you're fully entitled to. But don't accuse them of false motives, that is just gross. And please don't deny that two plus two equals four.

Question: Was ACLU-WA's Drug Law Reform Project brought into the drafting process? If you want an organization's support, it's a good idea to talk to them before rather than after, so you can develop a consensus product that everyone will feel comfortable with.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 2:37pm Permalink
TButler (not verified)

Please cite any text you deem to be regulatory in I-692.

It simply allows a patient with a qualifying condition to use, in front of a jury, the defense that the marijuana was for medical purposes.

In State v. Fry our Supremes ruled that medical marijuana in our state is nothing more than an affirmative defense.

I see your opinions sir but where are your facts?

The ACLU says they are for legalization but then does not support it when it presents itself.

Their declared reasons are invalid, it was been pointed out to you and you choose deny it.

Respectfully sir, I think that it is you that has a hard time adding.

As to the question you bring up and I believe it is a telling one.

Was ACLU-WA's Drug Law Reform Project brought into the drafting process?

I think some people at the ALCU got offended that someone would dare to bring an initiative about marijuana without consulting them first.

That anyone would allow this to continue for one day longer than necessary is simple beyond me.

The ACLU has actively worked against the legalization of marijuana in Washington State in regards to I-1068, they have hidden behind a non-excuse and even if you do not understand that thanks to the press of this last week many if not most Washingtonians now understand that.

It is not too late for them to do the right thing and change their minds.

I change many minds every day simply by talking to them one on one.


Sat, 06/12/2010 - 3:35pm Permalink
borden (not verified)


No disrespect intended to you either.

However, the initiative text at the page you linked to (thank you for that) has a full 12 sections to it. Some of it legalese about initiative process, but there are several dozen paragraphs that relate to how medical marijuana is regulated in Washington state. If you can't see that, then I just don't know what to say, but thank you for providing the link so everyone else can see it.

And if you think the ACLU was "offended" that someone would bring up a legalization ballot initiative, that's just your fantasy or story.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 3:45pm Permalink
borden (not verified)

Then I guess you are insane.

Also, ACLU supports full legalization of all drugs. I reported on it in our old newsletter when the board adopted that policy in 1994. See and They also have advocated legalization of marijuana since at least the 1970s.

I notice that my summation appeared at the bottom of my last lengthy post, rather than nearer to the beginning. For the benefit of any reasonable readers who might not have followed all the way to the end, I repeat it here:

If you prefer to use a different word than "regulation" to describe that, fine, but don't pretend that the initiative did not provide a substantial elaboration on the framework to be created for doing what the initiative set out to do. Which is clearly what Alison Holcomb at ACLU meant when she used the term "regulatory framework." I-1068 simply repeals penalties, and nothing more. If you think that's the right strategy, argue for that, you and the organizers are certainly entitled to that opinion. But don't hide behind the demonstrably false claim that state law doesn't allow for more of a framework than I-1068 provides.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Tue, 06/15/2010 - 9:20am Permalink

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