Washington Initiative 502

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Washington Marijuana Initiative Has Good Week

This has been a good week for I-502, the Washington state initiative to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana, and its sponsors, New Approach Washington. Over the weekend, the campaign racked up big bucks with a handful of six-figure contributions, and just before that, a new poll had it with a promising lead.

SurveyUSA polled registered voters last week on the question of whether I-502 should be enacted into law, and 55% said yes, while only 32% said no. That's a 23-point lead, a figure that exceeds the number of undecideds (13%). Even if the undecideds break strongly against I-502, as they are wont to do in initiative votes, the measure merely needs to not shed too much support to still be able to win in November.

The good poll numbers were followed over the weekend by New Approach Washington's announcement that it had received $1.25 million in new donations. The measure had already received $1.7 in donations before announcing the latest round.

The big bucks came from a handful of donors: $450,000 from Progressive Insurance founder and drug reform sugar daddy Peter Lewis; another $450,000 from the lobbying arm of the Drug Policy Alliance; $250,000 from TV travel show host Rick Steves, who had already kicked in another $100,000; and $100,000 from the ACLU of Washington.

I-502 would legalize the sale and possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Marijuana and marijuana-infused products would be grown by state licensed growers and sold in state-licensed stores. The measure would impose steep excise taxes on pot sales.

It is opposed by state law enforcement associations, but also by some legalization and medical marijuana activists concerned with its provision that would impose a new limit on active THC in the blood of drivers. Those critics argue that the provision would effectively criminalize driving by medical marijuana patients and other regular users.

It wasn't all good news this week. Word came out late last week that Steve Sarich, the state's most prominent purveyor of medical marijuana, and other opponents of I-502 have filed a lawsuit to keep the measure off the November ballot. They claim that passage of I-502 would be "ruinous" to the state budget and that the Office of Financial Management is conspiring with the I-502 campaign by not yet releasing a fiscal impact statement. But as Holcomb noted, the agency has until August 10 to do so.

WA
United States

Washington Marijuana Legalization Initiative Ahead in New Poll

An initiative to regulate and legalize marijuana in Washington state was leading by 13 points in a Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday. The poll had support for the initiative, I-502, at 50%, with 37% opposed and 13% undecided.

Seattle skyline
The poll is good, but not great, news for New Approach Washington, the high-powered group behind the initiative campaign. It shows support two points higher than a similar poll in January, but not high enough for the campaign to have much of a comfort zone.

The conventional wisdom among initiative watchers is that initiatives should be polling at 60% or above going in because opposition during the campaign season is bound to shave some points away by election day. That means that while New Approach Washington can take succor in the lead it holds, it still has its work cut out for it to cross the finish line victorious.

Looking at the cross tabs, support for legalization was higher among men (55%) than women (46%) and all age groups except the over-65 had support higher than 50%. Somewhat surprisingly, support was highest among those aged 46 to 65 (55%), followed by those aged 30 to 45 (54%) and those aged 18 to 29 (52%).

A large partisan divide has also emerged, with legalization supported by a whopping 70% of Democrats, but only 22% of Republicans. Independents came in at 54% in support. And although Washington's minority population is small, non-whites are supporting legalization at a higher rate (60%) than whites (49%). 

Public Policy Polling surveyed 1,073 Washington voters from through automated telephone interviews from June 14 to June 17. The margin of error for the survey is +/-3.0%. This poll was not paid for or authorized by any campaign or political organization.

WA
United States

Seattle Mayor Says It's Time to Legalize Marijuana

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn (D) used his state of the city address last Tuesday night to make a heartfelt plea for marijuana legalization. The mayor's remarks came as a new poll showed that an initiative that would legalize marijuana is favored by voters.

Mike McGinn
"It is time we were honest about the problems we face with the drug trade. Drugs are a source of criminal profit, and that has led to shootings and even murders. Just like we learned in the 1920s with the prohibition of alcohol, prohibition of marijuana is fueling violent activity," McGinn said in his prepared remarks.

"Seattle is the kind of place that isn't afraid to try a different approach," he continued. "We support safe access to medical marijuana and made enforcement of possession of marijuana for personal purposes our lowest enforcement priority. But we've learned in the past year that with the federal war on drugs still intact, and with our kids still getting gunned down on the streets, we need to do more.

"I know every one of the city council members sitting to my left and right believe as I do: It's time for this state to legalize marijuana, and stop the violence, stop the incarceration, stop the erosion of civil liberties, and urge the federal government to stop the failed war on drugs."

Mayor McGinn's remarks came as Washingtonians prepare to decide the issue for themselves in the November elections. A marijuana legalization initiative, I-502, has already been approved for the ballot. Sponsored by New Approach Washington, the initiative would create a system of state-licensed and -regulated marijuana commerce and allow adults 21 and over to possess up to one ounce.

A Public Policy Polling survey released this week shows the initiative leading, although not with a majority. In the poll, 47% of voters said they're currently inclined to vote yes on the measure, with 39% saying they are opposed.

A similar initiative is poised to make the ballot in Colorado, having handed in four times the number of signatures it needed for its final push, while legalization initiative signature-gathering campaigns are underway in California, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, and Oregon.

Seattle, WA
United States

Washington Voters to Decide Marijuana Legalization

An initiative that would legalize the limited possession of marijuana in the state of Washington and tax and regulate its commerce is headed for the November ballot to be decided by the voters after the state legislature punted on the matter last Thursday.

Initiative 502 campaigners handed in more than the 241,153 valid voter signatures required to be certified for the ballot by state officials. But under Washington law, such initiatives are first considered by the legislature, which has the chance to approve them itself.

The initiative was before the House State Government and Tribal Affairs Committee, but its chair, Rep. Sam Hunt (D-Olympia) said Thursday the committee, and thus the legislature, would take no action.

Passage would have been difficult in the legislature under ordinary circumstances, but was even more difficult because the initiative includes provisions raising taxes (in this case, on marijuana). Any initiative with tax increases requires a two-thirds vote in the legislature.

If passed, the measure would make Washington the first state to legalize the possession and commerce in marijuana and would put it on a collision course with the federal government.

The measure would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of pot or a pound of marijuana edibles, and they could buy it through state-run stores, much the same way the state handles liquor sales. The state stores would obtain their product from state-licensed growers and processors, with a 25% excise tax at each stage.

The initiative campaign is being run by New Approach Washington, which has brought together an impressive roster of endorsers and supporters, including TV personality and travel writer Rick Steves, former US Attorney for Western Washington, and a number of current and former state elected officials.

"Locking people up and putting handcuffs on them is not the way to resolve our society's issues with regard to marijuana," McKay, told legislators Thursday.

While most of the opposition to the initiative so far is coming from the usual suspects -- law enforcement, drug treatment providers -- some of it is coming from a segment of the state's medical marijuana community, which worries that the measure's setting a limit on THC levels to determine impairment in drivers could result in non-impaired patients being prosecuted.

But Dr. Kim Thorburn, Spokane County's former top public-health official, who spoke in support of the initiative, said those concerns were overblown. "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."

Now, it will be up to the voters to decide whether Washington becomes the first state to legalize marijuana, although by election time, they may not be alone. A similar initiative in Colorado is busy seeking a final 2,500 signatures to qualify for the ballot, while legalization initiative efforts are ongoing in California, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, and Nebraska.

Olympia, WA
United States

Washington Marijuana Initiative Makes Ballot

The Washington secretary of state's office announced last Friday that an initiative to legalize, license, and regulate marijuana has been certified for the November ballot. Washington is the first state this year to have a marijuana measure qualify for the ballot.

The measure, Initiative 502, would legalize marijuana for adults and regulate and tax it much like liquor. I-502 is sponsored by New Approach Washington, which has garnered an impressive list of sponsors and endorsements.

But not everybody in the Washington marijuana community is happy with it. Sensible Washington, which has twice tried unsuccessfully to get its own initiative on the ballot, is critical of I-502, and so are some elements of the medical marijuana community.

Friday's announcement came after the State Elections Division, using a random sample, determined that sponsors had nearly 278,000 valid signatures, easily enough to cover the minimum 241,153 required. The initiative campaign had turned in 354,608 signatures.

The initiative now goes to the state legislature, which can pass it, reject it, or ignore it. If the legislature rejects or ignores it, it then goes to the voters in November.

At least one state will have a chance to legalize marijuana this year, and it could soon be two. In Colorado, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has turned in nearly double the number of signatures needed for its initiative to make the ballot and is awaiting certification from state officials.

Marijuana legalization initiative signature-gathering campaigns are also currently underway in California, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, and Oregon.

Olympia, WA
United States

Poll Finds Washington State Voters Split on Marijuana Legalization

An Elway Research poll released January 4 found more support for than opposition to marijuana legalization in Washington state, but support was under 50%. When asked if they favored legalization, 48% said yes, with 45% opposed.

That marks a decline in support from the last Elway Research poll in July, when 54% favored legalization.

The poll results come just days after New Approach Washington handed in over 355,000 voter signatures in its bid to get its Initiative 502 on the November ballot. The initiative would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over and would regulate and tax marijuana sales at stores operated by the state Liquor Control Board. (All liquor stores in Washington are also operated by the state.)

The Elway polls asked generic questions about marijuana legalization. A November KING-TV/Survey USA poll that asked about specific provisions in I-502 found greater enthusiasm among voters. That poll had support at 57%.

Noting that the Elway Research poll only asked the generic question, New Approach director Alison Holcomb told the Seattle Times it didn't mention provisions in I-502 that are popular with voters, such as age restrictions and designating marijuana tax revenues for health and prevention programs.

"Our research over the years has shown us that voters really care about what the details are," she said.

WA
United States

WA State Voters Split on Marijuana Legalization

Washington state voters are evenly divided on the question of marijuana legalization, according to a poll released Monday. The Strategies 360 Washington Voter Survey found that of likely voters surveyed, 46% supported pot legalization and 46% opposed it.

The poll comes as advocates organized as New Approach Washington are in the midst of a signature-gathering campaign to place a legalization initiative, I-502, on the November 2012 general election ballot.

Polls conducted earlier this year did better. In July, an Elway poll had 30% "definitely supporting" legalization, with another 24% "inclined to support, but need[ing] to know more" -- a possible majority, but within the poll's +/- 5% margin of error. In January, as lawmakers considered bills that would decriminalize or legalize pot, KING5/SurveyUSA poll had 56% of respondents saying they thought legalization was a good idea, with 54% saying they thought lawmakers should allow marijuana to be sold at state-run liquor stores with the proceeds taxed.

The conventional wisdom among initiative campaign veterans is that a measure should start out polling at 60% or more to have a likelihood of breaking 50% on Election Day. For I-502 to start at 60%, its specific wording and title will have to win over some voters who responded negatively to these more general polls. Its ability to do so may in turn influence funders' willingness to support it. On the flip side, there is more than a year to go, and pro-legalization polling has continued to increase in most recent years.

In the current poll, marijuana legalization had its highest level of support among 2008 Obama voters (60%), Democrats or leaning Democratic (59%), independents (56%), King County and North Puget Sound residents (54%), and non-whites (51%).

The strongest opposition to legalization came from Republican and Republican leaning voters and 2008 McCain supporters (69%), Eastern Washington residents (59%), women (54%), and Western Washington residents (excluding King County and North Puget Sound) (52%).

The poll was conducted via telephone on September 11 through 14. It surveyed 500 Washington state residents who indicated they were likely to vote in the November 2012 election and included 400 who indicated they were likely to vote in the November 2011 election. The margin of error was +/- 4.4% for the 500-person sample and greater for subsamples.

Seattle, WA
United States

WA State Dems Endorse Marijuana Legalization

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.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/downtown_seattle.jpg
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.

Bellingham, WA
United States

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