Pubdate: Thu, 23 Jun 2011
Source: Columbian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2011 The Columbian Publishing Co.
Author: Gene Johnson, Associated Press


Adults Could Buy Up to an Ounce of Pot

SEATTLE -- A new push to legalize marijuana for recreational use in
Washington is carefully calibrated to what voters will support -- and
to what will keep state workers from getting into trouble with federal
agents, activists said Wednesday after filing the initiative.

The measure, backed by former Seattle U.S. Attorney John McKay,
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and travel-guide entrepreneur Rick
Steves, calls for legalizing up to an ounce of pot to be sold and
taxed at state-licensed stores.

The money would bring in at least $215 million a year in taxes, which
would largely be earmarked for drug treatment and education, while
eroding the black market that fuels drug-related crime in the state,
supporters said.

The group, New Approach Washington, must collect 241,000 valid
signatures by the end of this year to send the initiative to the
Legislature, which can pass it outright or allow it to go to a public
vote on the November 2012 ballot.

"I'm so excited Washington can take the lead in helping our country
out of this wrong-minded, very costly war on marijuana," Steves said
during a news conference at the Seattle Public Library. He insisted
that virtually everyone who wants to smoke marijuana already does, so
there's no reason not to legalize and tax it.

More than 8,200 people in Washington were arrested for simple
marijuana possession in 2008, and their arrests, prosecutions and
imprisonment cost the state millions of dollars, the organization said.

Washington is one of at least three states, along with California and
Colorado, expected to consider marijuana legalization next year, said
Morgan Fox, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy

It wasn't immediately clear whether the Washington initiative might
draw organized opposition.

Jamie Daniels, executive director of the Washington Council of Police
and Sheriffs, said her group opposes marijuana legalization generally
but has not taken a position on the initiative.

"Marijuana does impair the senses," she said. "It impairs people's
logical thinking functions so they do things that law enforcement
officers don't like."

She also suggested it is a gateway to harder drugs -- a theory Steves
dismissed by saying the only reason marijuana might be a gateway drug
is because of prohibition itself: People must get their pot from drug
dealers, who sometimes have a profit motive for getting them hooked on
harder stuff.

Previous legalization efforts have failed in Washington and other
states, including California last year. In Washington, another group,
Sensible Washington, is trying this year for a second time to collect
enough signatures in support of a far broader measure -- one that would
simply remove all state criminal and civil penalties for marijuana
use, sale and possession.

New Approach Washington's campaign manager, Alison Holcomb, said that
effort is too sweeping to win popular support. She said she and others
in her organization have been closely monitoring public opinion about
marijuana for years, and they crafted their new proposal accordingly.
For example, the measure would not allow people to grow their own
marijuana for recreational purposes; polls suggest that people remain
uneasy with the notion that marijuana gardens could proliferate in
their neighborhoods, she said.

Under the bill it also would remain illegal for a consumer to give or
sell marijuana to someone else. Pot could be possessed only by people
21 and older, and marijuana would be defined as cannabis that contains
a certain minimum level of the active ingredient THC -- possibly
clearing the way for industrial hemp production down the road, Holcomb

Earlier this year, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed legislation
that would have created a state system for licensing medical marijuana
dispensaries over concern that it would require state workers to
violate the federal Controlled Substances Act by inspecting marijuana
grow operations, among other things.

New Approach's legislation would avoid that problem by requiring state
workers to license grow operations or marijuana stores without
actively participating in violations of federal law, Holcomb said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.