SeattlePI / Joel Connelly / 12,20,2011
Supporters of Initiative 502, which would legalize marijuana in Washington and control its sales, are scheduled to submit petition signatures to the Secretary of State’s office in Olympia on December 29.
The measure needs 241,153 valid voter signatures to guarantee a position on the Evergreen State’s 2012 ballot.
I-502 would put marijuana under control of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which would regulate and tax its sale to users over the age of 21. The production, possession, delivery and distribution of cannabis would be legalized — at least under state law.
The initiative has won backing from people presently and formerly in high law enforcement positions. Supporters include two former U.S. Attorneys, Republican John McKay and Democrat Kate Pflaumer, as well as Charles Mandigo, former head of the Seattle office of the FBI.
The group boosting the initiative, New Approach Washington, is also backed by Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and travel guru Rick Steves.
“We are united in the belief that Washington should stop wasting law enforcement resources on adults who use marijuana, and instead create a tightly regulated system that generates tax revenue for our state and local governments,” supporters say in a statement of purpose.
Washington has already voted to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. The city of Seattle, in a 2003 initiative, told police to make pot possession their lowest law enforcement priority.
The Hemp Festival, held on the Seattle waterfront each August, is the best attended ceremony of its kind in America. Speakers have ranged from Steves to U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
Gov. Chris Gregoire, joined by Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, recently asked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana to allow pharmacies to dispense the drug for medical use.
According to Gregoire and Chafee, “patients with serious medical conditions who could benefit from medical use of cannabis do not have a safe and consistent source of the drug.”
Despite voters’ actions at the polls, and I-502, possession of marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The feds recently carried out raids against several Western Washington marijuana dispensaries.
If I-502 qualifies for the ballot, it will be sent to the Washington state Legislature. The Legislature can enact it into law, or refer it to the ballot, or reject it. If not enacted, the proposal goes to a vote of the people.