Pubdate: Sat, 28 Jan 2012
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2012 Associated Press
Author: Rachel LA Corte, Associated Press
Bookmark: (Ballot Initiatives)


OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - A measure to legalize the recreational use of 
marijuana is likely to be on the November ballot, after the secretary 
of the state's office certified the initiative Friday, saying the 
campaign had turned in enough valid petition signatures.

Initiative 502 now goes to the Legislature, but lawmakers are not 
likely to take up the issue during the short 60-day session that ends 
on March 8, meaning it would automatically appear on the ballot in 
the fall election.

"It's time to for a new approach to marijuana policy in Washington 
state," Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a written statement 
released by New Approach, the legalization campaign. "Passing this 
measure will free up law enforcement resources, allowing police and 
prosecutors to focus on violent criminals instead of low-level 
marijuana offenders."

David Ammons, a spokesman for Secretary of State Sam Reed, said a 
random 3 percent sampling of the nearly 355,000 petition signatures 
turned in last month indicated sponsors had nearly 278,000 valid 
signatures, more than the 241,153 necessary to qualify.

The measure was provisionally certified to the Legislature last week, 
while the signature check was still under way, so the state House and 
Senate could assign the measure to committees for further action. So 
far, neither the House nor Senate has scheduled any hearings.

Ammons said the Legislature has several options. It can pass the 
measure as submitted; reject it and let it go to the ballot this 
fall; ignore it and let it go to the ballot; or let it go to the 
ballot along with a legislative alternative.

I-502 would create a system of state-licensed growers, processors and 
stores, and impose a 25 percent excise on wholesale and retail sales 
of marijuana. People 21 and over could buy up to an ounce of dried 
marijuana; one pound of marijuana-infused product in solid form, such 
as brownies; or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids.

The initiative has several high-profile sponsors, including former 
Seattle U.S. Attorney John McKay and travel guide guru Rick Steves.

Washington state already has a voter-approved medical marijuana law 
that gives doctors the right to recommend - but not technically 
prescribe - marijuana for people suffering from cancer and other 
conditions that cause intractable pain.

Some medical marijuana patients oppose I-502, taking issue with an 
element of the initiative that would make it illegal for a motorist 
to have more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in their 
system. THC is the active ingredient of cannabis.

They argue that medical marijuana patients' levels vary depending on 
the body's tolerance, putting them at greater risk of arrest.

Those opponents filed a counter initiative proposal earlier this 
month that would provide medical marijuana patients with protection 
against arrest and classify hemp as an agricultural product.
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