Pubdate: Sun, 30 Sep 2012
Source: Columbian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2012 The Columbian Publishing Co.

In Our View: Legalizing & Taxing Marijuana Endorsed Initiative 502
offers the chance to abandon prohibition as a lost cause Sunday,
September 30, 2012

Prohibition of marijuana has failed as miserably as prohibition of
alcohol did back in the 1920s. It's time to recognize the obvious: The
longer we fight the war against marijuana, the greater grows the
defeat.Initiative 502 on the Nov. 6 ballot would legalize recreational
use of marijuana, which would be highly taxed and heavily regulated by
the state. Licensed farmers would grow marijuana to be sold in private
marijuana-only stores.

The Columbian endorses Initiative 502 for many reasons, not the least
of which is financial. I-502 offers Washingtonians the chance to
radically change how we react to marijuana, from wasting $211 million
over the past decade enforcing marijuana laws, to creating a revenue
stream of more than $500 million annually via a 25 percent excise tax
(plus other taxes) on legal marijuana sales.

Drastic as legalizing marijuana use might sound -- especially compared
to Washingtonians' beliefs not too many years ago -- it is what most
people want. Several polls show support for I-502, in some surveys by
double-digit percentage points. And, interestingly, there has been
scant organized opposition. In fact, the strongest resistance has come
from the medical marijuana community. Here's some additional
information about the anti-I-502 op-ed that is published today on the
facing page: Its author, Steve Sarich, was described in a 2010 Seattle
Times story as a "medical marijuana activist" and a "licensed medical
marijuana grower."

Turning the financial squandering of the war against marijuana into a
revenue source for our state would have significant impact on Clark
County. According to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union of
Washington (which provided the $211 million figure above), various
entities in Clark County spent about $10 million enforcing marijuana
laws from 2000-2010. Included were $2.8 million in defense costs and
$2.7 million in prosecution costs.

By contrast, the projected half-billion dollars in annual state tax
revenue would go mostly to health care ($244 million), the general
fund ($182 million) and youth drug prevention programs ($68 million).

Would conflicts arise with federal law? Look what happened after
Washington legalized medical marijuana in 1998 (with 59 percent voter
approval): The next year, the U.S. Department of Justice notified U.S.
attorneys to not spend federal money investigating and prosecuting
medical marijuana cases. According to the "Yes on 502" campaign, that
DOJ stand-down applied to cases that were in "clear and unambiguous
compliance" with the new state law.

More states are putting pressure on the federal government to abandon
the war against marijuana. We believe I-502 will add to that pressure.
And, if conflicts arise, they can be resolved in the courts.

As for driving laws, I-502 would apply a DUI standard of 5 nanograms
of THC (the marijuana component that causes intoxication) per
milliliter of blood. Some critics argue the standard is too strict. If
so, adjustments could be made legislatively.

Objections to I-502 are unpersuasive. But the need to recognize
prohibition as a lost cause could not be more clear. Vote "Yes" on
Initiative 502.
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