Push for Looser Pot Laws Gains Momentum

Richard Lee, of Oaksterdam University, looks at cannabis plants maintained by students in July.Richard Lee, of Oaksterdam University, looks at cannabis plants maintained by students in July.A push to legalize marijuana on the West Coast is picking up steam as Washington lawmakers and pot proponents in California and Oregon propose separate measures.

The Washington state legislature will hold a preliminary vote Wednesday on whether to sell pot in state liquor stores, though even its authors say the bill is unlikely to pass. The same day in California, backers of a well-funded ballot measure to legalize marijuana are expected to file more than enough signatures to put the initiative before state voters in November.

Activists have also been busy in Washington state, with one group filing a marijuana-legalization initiative last Monday to put the issue on the November ballot. Activists in Oregon, meanwhile, say they have collected more than half of the signatures they need by July to allow a vote on whether the state should set up a system of medical-marijuana dispensaries.

The efforts are part of a national marijuana-legalization movement that has lately been emboldened by several factors, including laws allowing marijuana for medical purposes. The recession may be another reason. With many states suffering big budget deficits, for instance, legalization advocates say the states could benefit from new taxes on the sale of marijuana. In addition, the Obama administration appears to have taken a more-mellow attitude on medical marijuana as societal views about the drug evolve. In a poll last week of 500 adults in Washington state by SurveyUSA, 56% of respondents said legalizing marijuana is a good idea.

“We’re beyond a tipping point culturally,” said Roger Goodman, a Democrat representing Kirkland, Wash., and other Seattle suburbs in the Washington legislature who co-authored the legalization bill, known as HB 2401. “Now we’re at a point where we’re figuring out the safest way to end prohibition.”

West Coast states—especially California—are particularly in the vanguard of the marijuana-legalization push given the region’s more-liberal attitudes toward a variety of issues. Legalization measures in other states, such as Massachusetts and New Hampshire, haven’t gotten as far, said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Washington lawmakers will vote on a second bill next week that seeks to reduce the penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana to a $100 fine from a crime with jail time.

Still, there is deep opposition to legalizing marijuana in Washington state from law-enforcement groups and chemical-dependency organizations, many of which argue it would make the drug even more accessible to teenagers than it is currently. Also many argue that marijuana is a “gateway drug,” meaning it will lead those using it to moveon to other drugs.

“What message does legalizing marijuana send to the youth of Washington?” asked Riley Harrison, a ninth-grade student, before a packed committee hearing this week in Olympia. “That you’re willing to gamble our future for a little tax revenue?”

Washington, California and Oregon are three of 13 states that have medical-marijuana laws, which permit patients with doctors’ notes to use the drug. The New Jersey legislature last Monday approved a medical-marijuana bill that will make it the 14th state and outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine is expected to sign it before leaving office next week.

The legality of selling medical marijuana remains tenuous. Federal law considers pot illegal, and enforcement of state laws varies widely among California cities and counties. Last October, though, the Obama administration said it wouldn’t aggressively pursue users of medical marijuana where it is legal.

The legalization ballot measure in California was organized by a pot seller in Oakland, Calif., Richard Lee, whose group says the petition now has more than 700,000 signatures, far more than the 434,000 or so it needs to qualify for the November ballot. The measure would let local governments determine how to regulate and tax pot sales.

So far, Mr. Lee says that his business—which includes a medical-pot club and marijuana-business school dubbed Oaksterdam University, named after the city of Amsterdam where marijuana is decriminalized—has spent “a little more than $1 million” supporting the pot-legalization initiative. Mr. Lee says he is optimistic the measure will pass.

An April survey by the Field Poll found that 56% of California voters support legalizing pot and taxing its proceeds as a way of mitigating the state’s financial crisis.

The California measure’s opponents include various law-enforcement groups represented by lobbyist John Lovell. He says the California Peace Officers’ Association, California Narcotic Officers Association and California Police Chiefs’ Association are concerned that legalizing pot will lead more impaired drivers and embolden illegal-drug cartels to gain control over a legal industry. “The bottom line for all three groups…is we already have significant criminal and societal problems with alcohol abuse,” said Mr. Lovell.

– Article from The Wall Street Journal.



  1. Ongwehonwe on

    We the stoners of California, on Nov 5th, 2010 will make CANNABIS (its proper name dipsticks!)shall be legal with our state. This was done by using the laws of this state,and without any outside help? We of this state know how long ,and how much we in this state have lost to get to this state, in time. now that events are about to happen?, outsiders like this canadian group like to ride in here on our coat tale? our reply?….NOT!, not today or tomorrow. We won with our actions, but we been at alot longer than anyone there? We have been at it fro close to 50 years now, what only what 20 at the most up there.Some people have said your a different type of goverment, than ours(canadian,vs. american) Which is TRUE! if you compare the two under the british common law you are queens protey? and canadian is not a republic sither, just a coloney of england? so that must suck, in todays time to still live in a country with a king or queen as they say here;…”HOW GAY!” yes! Verina, it is, indeed!

  2. Anonymous on

    And wouldn’t sticking youth with a criminal record for life “jeopardize” their future more so then allowing them the choice of whether or not to smoke marijuana?

    The tactics they use to defy logic are hilarious… the scary thing is, that it actually works o.O

  3. loser on

    This process is the biggest waste of time & money, WTF is this societys problem with weed? These politicians who complain about gateway drug and alcohol are probably alcoholics. THEY SHOULD GET A DRUG TEST TO BE IN OFFICE!…LEGALIZE

  4. Jomila on

    This is what I’d have to say to Riley. Actually it would show we care about your future Riley, see what your govt. is actually doing is taking this widely used drug, that is consumed by millions each day in America and forcing it underground into the black market. That means that millions of Americans are getting there drugs from gangs, and organized crime.

    Now if we were to legalize and regulate this and only sell it in liquor stores where they ask for ID, then we would have control of the market where it would be harder for kids like you to get because drug dealers don’t ask for ID.

    See people are going to use marijuana wether it’s illegal or not, it’s been used for thousands of years and will be used for thousands more.

    Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to society to let them do what they desire, if that desire does not cause harm to anyone?

    I see your views are still blurred which I understand cause at your age mine were to. But I believe as you grow older, threw logic and reason you too will see that the Prohibition of this plant is in violation of or God given rights as human beings!

  5. Anonymous on

    that also makes politicians who oppose it because they say there is no economic benefit, they used that as an argument so ha

  6. Kyle Ball on

    its so true, as soon as i read that i laughed for like 5 minutes strait. what oes a ninthgrader know about econimics, stephen harper has a degree in it but even he cant understand economics

  7. Jbird on

    Wow….they are using a 9th grader, with a totally developed sense of world politics and an obvious degree in pharmacology, to reason against the consumption of a plant that has been around for thousands of years. Pullin out all the stops….