Pubdate: Thu, 28 Mar 2013
Source: Olympian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2013 The Olympian
Author: Brad Shannon


U.S. Rep. Denny Heck says he ended up voting for Washington's 
marijuana legalization initiative last fall and thinks the federal 
government now needs to take steps to let the state put Initiative 
502 into effect.

Among the changes: Shed the federal Drug Enforcement Agency's 
Schedule 1 listing of marijuana as a "most dangerous" drug with no 
accepted medical use, which he called "the height of silliness."

"My position is that the federal government's regulations ought to 
enable states to implement voter-approved laws or legislatively 
approved laws in this regard," Heck said. "(Methamphetamine) is a 
Schedule 2 drug. I mean, this just makes no sense. It's nuts."

The Olympia Democrat, who was sworn in this year to represent the 
state's new 10th Congressional District, spoke to The Olympian 
editorial board on a slew of topics in his first visit to his 
hometown paper since taking office.

In last fall's campaign, Heck did not publicly support I-502 when 
asked during an Oct. 11 debate in Olympia. But in his Wednesday 
editorial board meeting, Heck indicated his view changed late in the election.

"I personally voted for it. I didn't take a clear and fast position 
on it during the campaign. I was thinking long and hard. Paula (his 
spouse) is the one who actually got me there," he said.

Heck said marijuana issues already have "many leaders" in Congress 
and he won't seek to play a leading role. He said he has had 
conversations with Rep. Ed Permutter, a Colorado Democrat and senior 
member of the same House Financial Services Committee, about changes 
in banking law to allow banks to do business with pot enterprises.

"The problem with not changing the law is (the marijuana industry) 
becomes 100 percent cash-based," Heck said. "And we're not talking 
about a nickel here. We're talking about hundreds of millions if not 
billions even in this state. You don't want a cash economy of that 
size because of all the frankly bad things that could come as a result."

That said, Heck said "you know it's going to be a tough sell 
legislatively to get Republicans to enact anything that allows us to 
implement our law. But there will be efforts and I predict over time 
this is going to happen."

Heck said the No. 1 issue he hears from voters about is gun control. 
He said he favors universal background checks for all gun purchases, 
although he is sympathetic to the need for a grandfather to be able 
to hand down an heirloom weapon to a descendant.

"Clearly, clearly universal background checks are something we 
already have for people who purchase through a gun store," Heck said. 
He supports the checks for gun shows and private sales.

Heck wants to clamp down on the ability for a person who can legally 
buy a gun to do that for someone who should not have a weapon, which 
he called "straw purchases."

The lawmaker, who ran on a slogan to "Give Congress Heck!" said he is 
optimistic about passing legislation that deals with the straw sales 
but is less confident about the chances for universal background 
checks, which also failed in the Washington Legislature last month.

Heck faces re-election in fall 2014 and said he has resisted the 
pressure to start campaigning already. But he said he received an 
email saying that Republican Stan Flemming of University Place, who 
lost in the 2012 primary, has done fundraising to retire debt from 
that campaign and plans to run again next year.

Heck had a fundraiser Tuesday night, but he said: "I can't quite get there yet."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom