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WA State Dems Endorse Marijuana Legalization

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #701)

The Washington state Democratic Central Committee Saturday endorsed a marijuana legalization initiative, throwing the party's weight behind the effort to put the measure on the ballot for the November 2012 election.

downtown Seattle
The Central Committee voted 75-43 for a resolution supporting Initiative 502, which would legalize the possession of marijuana by adults and allow for its sale through pot-only stores regulated by the state liquor control authority. Initiative sponsors New Approach Washington estimate that marijuana legalization under its model would generate more than $200 a million a year in tax revenues, with more than half of that earmarked for public health programs.

The Democrats cited, among other things, law enforcement costs of marijuana prohibition and the revenues that could be gained with legalization. They noted that marijuana possession arrests, with mandatory 24-hour jail stays, accounted for half of all Washington drug arrests. 

I-502 is controversial among some segments of the marijuana legalization and medical marijuana communities because it also includes a per se driving under the influence provision. The initiative sets a blood THC level of 5 nanograms per millileter above which drivers are presumed to be impaired, but some activists argue that such a provision will result in the arrest and conviction of pot-accustomed drivers who are not actually impaired.

That didn't seem to bother the Democratic Central Committee too much, though. The committee included that provision in its long list of "whereases" in support of the initiative, noting that "this per se limit will not apply to the non-psychoactive marijuana metabolite carboxy-THC that can appear in blood or urine tests for days or even weeks after last use."

I-502 is supported by the ACLU of Washington, whose Alison Holcomb has taken a leave of absence to spearhead the campaign, and has been endorsed by prominent Washington figures, including former US Attorney John McKay (the man who prosecuted Marc Emery, ironically), Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, and travel writer and TV show host Rick Steves.

Organizers have until next July to gather 241,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. But I-502 is an initiative to the legislature, meaning that if it passes the signature-gathering hurdle, it would then go before the state legislature in the upcoming session. If the legislature refuses to act, the initiative would then go before the voters in November 2012.

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.


Atlanta Toker (not verified)

Congratulations Washington, forward thinking people are so refreshing.

Let your success be swift and infectious for all other states. Liberty is a wonderful thing, lets embrace it or it will vanish forever. We are the last stronghold, lets be together on this. Show strength and confidence in this vote. We thank you Washington, thank you for your courage.

Mon, 09/19/2011 - 8:34pm Permalink
TrebleBass (not verified)

Finally, the democrats are on board somewhere. I hope it catches on. They could use legalization in the coming decades (and other drug reform, not just marijuana). The republicans might have Ron Paul and Gary Johnson of course, but the party as a whole would never embrace legalization. The democrats have a golden opportunity if they do. Who knows, maybe for the 2016 election, their presidential nominee will be for legalization. 

Tue, 09/20/2011 - 2:45am Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

initiative in WA that is better than this one, in that that one does not include the per se driving under the influence and allows for individuals to grow, which I understand 502 does not.  As for those you listed who endorsed this initiative, they are almost reason enough to oppose it.  Some might say that many of us who want legalization of cannabis but who do not like this version of legalization are sacrificing the good for the perfect, this charge is not true, 502 is NOT a good law, it is seriously flawed, and it should be mothballed before it does irreversible damage to the current medical pot laws in WA. 

Tue, 09/20/2011 - 3:11am Permalink
React (not verified)

It is a step in the right direction, but there are some flaws in it and those must be address before 502 goes on the ballot.

Fri, 09/23/2011 - 4:36pm Permalink

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