Pubdate: Fri, 26 Feb 2010
Source: Covington Reporter (WA)
Copyright: 2010 Sound Publishing, Inc.
Author: Andy Hobbs
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


A grass-roots campaign is under way to legalize marijuana in
Washington state.

Sensible Washington is the political committee behind Initiative 1068,
which seeks to remove criminal penalties involving adult use,
possession and cultivation of marijuana. I-1068 needs 241,153 valid
voter signatures by the July 2 deadline in order to appear on
November's election ballot.

Despite a well-known stance for the reform of marijuana laws, the
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington has drawn
criticism from activists for not supporting the initiative.

ACLU of Washington issued a statement regarding its stance on I-1068,
citing the absence of regulatory measures.

"While a large majority of Washingtonians support reducing the penalty
for adult possession of marijuana from a crime to a civil penalty,
support for legalization is less solid," according to the statement.
"And those who do support full legalization understand that
'legalization' means treating marijuana similarly to alcohol - taxing
and regulating it. Passing an initiative that does not provide for any
regulation would be distinctly difficult."

An ACLU of Washington spokesman deferred all comments to the
statement, which said a rejection of the initiative would be a setback
for "our ongoing reform movement."

Philip Dawdy, campaign director and co-author of I-1068, is
disappointed in the ACLU's stance. He said a regulation mechanism in
addition to the legalization proposal could have jeopardized the
initiative by opening the door to a legal challenge for "single issue

"They've got time and money and institutional prestige invested in
legalization. We're a challenge to them in terms of the ownership of
this issue," Dawdy said of the ACLU. "We didn't set it up like that."

The recently failed marijuana decriminalization bill in the state
Legislature is proof that the decision should go directly to
Washington voters, Dawdy said.

"People have just hit the wall with marijuana prohibition," he said.
"It's time for the people to do this."


Federal Way resident Ray Arment will lead signature-gathering efforts
in Federal Way, Fife, Milton and Des Moines. So far, a handful of
volunteers have joined Arment, a medical marijuana patient himself.

Four years ago, Arment injured his neck and back in a fall, eventually
becoming hooked on pain medication until trying marijuana as medicine.

"I'm completely off prescription drugs," said Arment, 48. "I feel like
I'm an example that it can work. It's all about responsibility and

However, his involvement with I-1068 is aimed at another form of
relief: Fear of arrest.

"Of course I'm nervous. I got two kids and a house," he


CannaCare, a medical marijuana clinic based in Kirkland, led a press
conference Feb. 24 on the Legislature steps in Olympia.

In addition to supporting I-1068, speakers at the rally called on
state legislators to provide more legal protection for medical
marijuana patients.

Steve Sarich, executive director of CannaCare, said legislators have
outright failed to address the issue while tackling more trivial bills
such as SB 6284, which recognizes "Leif Erickson Day," or SB 5192,
which allows dogs in bars.

Sarich also criticized State v. Fry, the Jan. 21 State Supreme Court
decision ruling regarding one patient whose marijuana supply was
seized by police during a home search. The court upheld that police
had probable cause to search the home after smelling marijuana, and
that the patient exceeded the 60-day supply limit of 24 ounces and 15

"It's time to finally provide protection to arrest and prosecution of
patients," he said. "The State v. Fry case has now proven to us we
have no constitutional rights in the state of Washington."

Sarich is among local marijuana activists at odds with the ACLU,
citing a lack of communication between the organization and the
citizens. Patient registries, $100 tickets under a decriminalization
bill and similar regulation processes are a violation of privacy that
could lead to arrest and more, he said.

"That would be the ultimate shopping list," Sarich said. "Let the ACLU
know that we will picket outside their offices the first time they
bring it up."

Renton resident Don Skakie, a South King County coordinator for
Sensible Washington, noted that I-1068 will likely need revision by

"We're gonna give the Legislature something to deal with that they
have to deal with. They won't be able to duck us anymore," he said.
"We're going to get people out of prison, we're going to get money
back into the economy and we're going to put farmers in Eastern
Washington to work."

One activist credits medical marijuana for saving his life. Ric Smith,
a patient advocate for Green Cross and a Sensible Washington
initiative co-sponsor, was dying of AIDS in the mid-1990s. Marijuana
helped restore his appetite, and by eating more food, his body was
able to tolerate doctor-prescribed steroids, which made his body
strong enough to then tolerate medications.

"Munchies save lives," said Smith, 46, who hopes to someday see
marijuana legalized and taxed. "As a taxpayer, let me pay for
something I use."


In 1998, Washington state voters approved a law that removed criminal
penalties and established a defense for qualified patients who possess
or cultivate cannabis for medicinal use.

In 2008, the "60-day" supply for patients was defined as 24 ounces and
15 plants; both numbers have attracted intense debate from medical
marijuana advocates. The law allows patients to exceed these limits if
the patient can prove medical need, according to the Washington State
Department of Health.

Technically, the cannabis clinics are illegal. Federal law classifies
marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, in the same league as heroin.
Washington's medical marijuana laws help patients with a legal defense
in local or state courts. Federal laws ultimately trump state laws,
however, and do not recognize the medical use of marijuana.

Learn more

- - To learn more about Sensible Washington and I-1068, visit

- - To learn more about volunteering, contact Bonnie Fond, field
director for Western Washington, at  or (206) 718-7316.

- - Other information specific to South King County is available by
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D