Pubdate: Fri, 27 Jan 2012
Source: Columbian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2012 The Columbian Publishing Co.
Author: Rachel La Corte


Medical marijuana patients file counter-initiative in legalization

Pot legalization signatures to be turned in Thursday

Voters to decide tolling initiative

OLYMPIA (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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