Pubdate: Thu, 09 Feb 2012
Source: Bellingham Herald (WA)
Copyright: 2012 Bellingham Herald
Author: Alexis Krell
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


An initiative to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in Washington 
probably won't get fast-tracked by the Legislature before it sees the 
ballot this fall, the campaign supporting it says.

Initiative 502 had a work session at the Capitol Thursday. Because 
it's an initiative to the Legislature rather than to the people, 
lawmakers could pass it directly into law or propose an alternative 
that would appear next to it on the ballot.

However, campaign director Alison Holcomb doesn't see signs that 
they'll do either.

"We're being realistic about the fact that this is a short session," 
Holcomb told reporters after the meeting. "They're very busy this 
year and we have a budget problem."

Holcomb also said the Legislature would likely need a two-thirds vote 
to pass the initiative into law since it includes a new marijuana 
excise tax. That alone could deter lawmakers from taking up the cause.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said Wednesday she doesn't expect 
the Legislature to take any action on the initiative. If the 
Legislature ignores the proposal, it goes to the November ballot.

Supporters testified Thursday that the measure would respond to a 
failing marijuana policy and help fight the black market. Opponents 
said it would increase youth marijuana use and questioned how 
effective the proposed system for regulation and taxation would be.

Jim Cooper, executive director of TOGETHER!, an organization that 
works with youth substance abuse prevention in Thurston County, 
testified against the initiative.

"We're proponents of a medical model for marijuana, and the 
rescheduling of it to be a medicine and regulated by the pharmacies," 
Cooper said in an interview. "When availability goes up and access is 
easier, you'll see more kids smoking marijuana."

Last week, more than 40 Washington lawmakers asked the Drug 
Enforcement Administration to make marijuana a Schedule 2 drug, 
allowing it to be used for treatment.

Cooper also expressed concern about the state's ability to regulate the drug.

"I'm concerned that the Liquor Control Board, in the transition 
they're going through right now, may not have the resources and 
ability to regulate marijuana," he said.

Seattle Democrats Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson and Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles 
spoke in favor of I-502 at a press conference after Thursday's hearing.

"It is time to legalize, regulate and tax cannabis," Dickerson told 
reporters. "... Washington state can be the first state in the 
country to do this, and I fully believe that other states will follow."

Some in the medical marijuana community are concerned about the 
initiative's proposed limits on THC, the active ingredient in 
cannabis, for drivers. Dickerson sponsored a proposal that would 
require law enforcement to use methods other than THC levels to judge 
impairment, but it didn't make the cutoff for bills to pass policy committees.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom