Marijuana Legalization Headed to the Ballot in Washington – But Is It Already Doomed?

Washington state voters want to legalize marijuana. And this November, they’ll get the chance to vote to do so with Initiative 502. But while the legalization of cannabis can and must be passed in Washington state, this initiative, even if passed, likely won’t do it.

Tuesday evening New Approach Washington, the ACLU-backed, star-studded team behind I-502 announced that they had secured the 241,153 signatures needed to get the law on the ballot this November.

The law, if passed, will legalize marijuana to anyone over 21 years of age and put the state in charge of licensing and regulating it. The law would accomplish this by removing most state-level prohibitions against cannabis and by creating a tax structure around the pot industry.

In the initiative’s own words:

This measure would remove state-law prohibitions against producing, processing, and selling marijuana, subject to licensing and regulation by the liquor control board; allow limited possession of marijuana by persons aged twenty-one and over; and impose 25% excise taxes on wholesale and retail sales of marijuana, earmarking revenue for purposes that include substance-abuse prevention, research, education, and healthcare. Laws prohibiting driving under the influence would be amended to include maximum thresholds for THC blood concentration.

On the surface, I-502 is exactly what Washingtonians who are interested in personal liberty, increased revenues and better health care should vote for. But upon closer look, the initiative also presents some rather unavoidable pitfalls that stand a good chance of making the effort all for naught.

The main problem with I-502 is that it does nothing to counter the federal government’s ability to say “screw your law, pot’s illegal, end of story.” The law would simply rewrite how Washington deals with marijuana, removing certain penalties, creating new laws around it and treating it as just another restricted commodity.

Unfortunately, that’s what states including Washington are already doing with regard tomedical marijuana, and what’s happening in result are increased federal raids and crackdowns on providers and patients far and wide.

The sad truth is that writing more laws that further decriminalize (in this case, legalize) marijuana will likely only lead to an even heavier hand by Uncle Sam in saying that those laws mean squat. To put it bluntly, any state that tries to regulate a federally-banned substance will face a swift preemption and injunction by the Department of Justice.

So how does one legalize a substance that the federal government doesn’t want legalized?

The answer is to follow the path that’s already laid out–that is, to do what the folks who ended alcohol prohibition did when individual states began repealing all penalties against alcohol. Without a specific law legalizing booze, the feds had nothing to preempt, and therefore had to rely solely on federal agents to enforce the increasingly-unpopular prohibition laws.

This method eventually ended with the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, and today we drink ourselves silly.

The same method can be used with marijuana. In fact, an effort (albeit, a thus far wildly-unsuccessful one) to repeal Washington state cannabis prohibitions is going on in tandem with the 502 legalize-and-regulate approach.

This effort, pushed perhaps most publicly by longtime pot activist and attorney Doug Hiatt and the folks at Sensible Washington, is still trying to gain support in Washington, but is behind by leaps and bounds to the well-moneyed I-502 plan.

Hiatt recently told me that he still thinks his group will have a repeal option on the November ballot. I certainly hope so.

The 502 backers will argue that passing their bill is necessary regardless of whether its immediately killed by the feds or not. They’ll say that forcing the federal government to stop an individual state from carrying out the will of its voters will be too poor a public spectacle to bear and that, at the very least, the effort will make future attempts to legalize that much easier.

This is true. But only to an extent and not quite in the way the 502 folks mean.

The I-502 law passing is indeed better than nothing passing at all (a statement that Hiatt and other repeal backers will argue strongly against). But the only major reason it should pass is to prove how quickly it’s preempted and in turn to steel voters to do what’s necessary the next go round, and move to repeal.

The federal government currently has no qualms with ignoring state marijuana laws–something that dispensaries all over the state can attest to. And if the states go as far as to legalize and regulate pot, one need not wait until the ink is dry on the law before an Assistant U.S. Attorney General files a federal injunction to stop it.

At that point a lot of money will have been spent and a lot of time used up. But if it finally leads to a proper repeal bill being voted on in the next election, it will have been worth it.

Of course, Washington has an opportunity to repeal cannabis prohibition now. Voters simply have to realize it.

– Article from Seattle Weekly.

Comments

4 Comments

  1. Mark on

    Good point, Harry! The DEA budget needs to be exposed like the emperor’s new clothes…how much money for what the f…? And the snake oil being sold by America’s Ministry of Virtue and Vice must be exposed for what it is, reefer madness repackaged and sold to us suckers over and over, and we keep buying into it!! It’s putting away your kids, and yours, and yours…and your money is going to the courts as they take away your kids for Puritan Vice Crimes! It’s a money scam outta the Sheriff’s Office!!

  2. Windy on

    I am certain this is not a ballot initiative but rather is headed to the legislature instead of the voters. There are two kinds of initiatives in WA State, the ones which gather signatures in the latter half of the year (July – December) go to the legislature and the ones which gather sigs in the first half of the year (January – June) go to the voters.

    Other than that, this is NOT a good law, it makes it more difficult for MMJ patients and dispensaries, uses 21 rather than 18 as the age after which it can be legally possessed, and includes a per se (drugged driving) provision which is not scientifically validated. Please, if you live in WA please sign the petition for I-505 which is a much better law when they begin gathering sigs in January (you’ll likely have to search out a petition as the group sponsoring this initiative does not have the funding to pay for signature gatherers. And remember you must be a registered voter for your sig to be valid and only sign it ONCE; if you sign it more than once it invalidates ALL your signatures on this initiative petition completely.

  3. Dirty Harry on

    OK, so the pattern is if a state legalizes or decriminalizes, the feds raid them more intensely.
    OK…then the more states that do it, the feds will have no choice but to slap back right? What are the feds going to do when half of the states do it? Or if 3/4 of the states do it? It will be seen as an attack on the voters and also cost the DEA DOJ a butt load of money.
    Yea, it costs a state a lot of money to get things on a ballet and passed, but it will cost a lot more for the feds to raid and fight it. Times that by the number of states who choose to do it… The feds are already broke, this could make them rethink their spending options. If the feds don’t have the money or the resources to go after every state, then they can’t.
    The cold war ended when the USA out spent Russia and Russia went broke. Maybe we can do this to the DEA DOJ?

  4. Anonymous on

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/05/07/medical-marijuana-becoming-blockbuster-drug.aspx

    The Illegal Herb that Fights Cancer
    Posted By Dr. Mercola | May 07 2011 | 420,850 views

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/26/obama-war-on-weed.aspx?e_cid=20111126_DNL_art_1

    The Medical Miracle You’ll Get Arrested for Using
    Posted By Dr. Mercola | November 26 2011 | 255,598 views

    FEDERAL TORT CLAIMS ACT FOR MARIJUANA WHITE COLLAR CRIME
    AN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE ON MARIJUANA WHITE COLLAR CRIME!

    The Federal Tort Claims Act or “FTCA”, (June 25, 1948, ch. 646, Title IV, 62 Stat. 982, “28 U.S.C. Pt.VI Ch.171? and 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)), is a statute enacted by the United States Congress in 1948.

    The FTCA permits private parties to sue the United States in a federal court for most torts committed by persons acting on behalf of the United States. The FTCA constitutes a limited waiver of sovereign immunity.
    The Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946, for the first time, gave American citizens the right to sue the federal government.”

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/26/obama-war-on-weed.aspx?e_cid=20111126_DNL_art_1
    http://www.thehumansideoflyme.net/
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhdBNmCANzk
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95eF4Dn3CL0
    http://www.underourskin.com/

    The primary reason for this communication was to create an awareness of the methods of omission used in this great crime against humanity itself. Now if you look closely you will not find the mentioning of powerful antibiotic actions of marijuana nor will you find the mentioning of the Lyme plague (Lyme disease primarily is treated with powerful antibiotics ) which was so disturbing to myself — you the reader are being directed to these specific omitted facts with all the background provided.

    Cannabis plant extracts can effectively fight drug-resistant bacteria.
    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=5787866&page=1
    Antibacterial Cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa
    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/np8002673?journalCode=jnprdf&quickLinkVolume=71&quickLinkPage=1427&volume=71

    The audience of the communication has at length in time now been exposed to the Lyme plague instrumented by the United States Government and their facilitating agents. The email sent out by Joseph Mercola clearly demonstrates the aggressive actions by the criminal parties which must be responded to with every action possible.

    Thus the difficult yet apparent facts of this bio weapon being empowered by marijuana Prohibition comes to light. This is the 2012 moment and we have to prosecute this crime.

    By Virginia T. Sherr 7-31-05

    Lyme borreliosis is a brain disease as well as a multisystemic disease caused by spirochetal bacteria.* Quite frankly, it is an infection that has been burdened with a thousand inaccurate medical diagnoses. The manner in which the current pandemic of tertiary Lyme disease, neuroborreliosis, has usually been handled— either angrily dismissed or strangely misdiagnosed–throughout the 30 years following its “discovery,” has blemished the historic excellence of modern American Medicine.

    Losses of acuity in the human brain’s visual cortex have been observed as early as 6 hours following the toxic bite of an infected tick. Lyme may persist after too brief a period of treatment or if there has been no treatment, and may result in chronic infections whereupon Lyme borreliosis becomes a potential cause of every symptom in medical and psychiatric lexicons. It is the “Great Imitator” of this Millennium, spirochetal paresis (neuro-syphilis) having been its precursor and its model.

    Special to AOL News
    (May 28) — We’re in the midst of a terrifying epidemic, although you wouldn’t know it to talk to most doctors and health specialists.

    The disease is growing at a rate faster than AIDS. From 2006 to 2008 alone, the number of cases jumped a whopping 77 percent. In 2008 alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed 28,921 “confirmed” and 6,277 “probable” cases of the disease, but there could be as many as 420,000 because of underreporting.

    Prominent victims include Parker Posey, Richard Gere, President George W. Bush, Alice Walker and Christie Brinkley.

    If any other disease had stricken so many people, the medical community would be scurrying for knowledge, scrambling for cures or rushing to warn patients (think swine flu).

    But more important is the need for public health community to treat this disease like the epidemic it is, and start putting real resources into educating the public and the medical profession about how to identify it, treat it, and prevent it.