Washington State Legislators Introduce Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

According to The Stranger, Washington state legislators have introduced a bill aimed at reducing the penalty for marijuana possession to a $100 fine.

State representative Brendan Williams, citing a cost analysis of marijuana-related arrests from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, has said that the state would save $7.5 million by passing the bill. According to The Stranger, the decriminalization measure would apply to adults in possession of 40 grams or less of marijuana. The penalties for juvenile offenders would remain unchanged from current state law.

Williams, in speaking with the Washington alternative weekly, said that he plans on framing the legislative discussion “in terms of the tradeoff in the budget discussion … and set a square alternative…[i.e.] ‘Do you choose to provide health care for x number of children or fund criminalizing marijuana possession?’”

Earlier this November, Massachusetts passed a bill similar in scope by a 30-point margin. Additionally, a recent survey of Washington state citizens revealed that 81 percent of voters there do not believe that current marijuana laws are working.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to see the drug decriminalized.

Opponents of past measures, such as the bill proposed by legislators like Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) have pointed to marijuana’s causal link to mental illness as reasons why the drug should remain illegal.

However, others, including marijuana advocacy groups, argue that such claims are baseless.

Our Take

Regardless of one’s preference one way or the other for the drug, this, as a measure, seems to make sense.

The cost–on both local and federal levels–of prosecuting non-violent drug offenders is already too much. Perhaps this bill won’t be passed, but the passing of similar laws in states like Michigan and Massachusetts seems to indicate that Americans are ready for a new approach to drug laws, if not necessarily legalization.

– Article from College News on January 15, 2009.