Must-Watch Video: Marijuana Legalization Hearing in Washington State

CANNABIS CULTURE – Marijuana activists, politicians, and former law enforcement officials spoke at the Washington State Legislature today in support of Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson’s House Bill 1550, which would legalize cannabis and make it available for retail purchase in state-run liquor stores.

Cannabis Culture’s Executive Director Jodie Emery was invited to speak to the House Ways and Means Committee along side other distinguished panelists including Seattle City Attorney Peter S. Holmes, Former United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington John McKay, Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess, and Former WA State Senator George Rohrbacher.

HB 1550 would allow the sales of marijuana at state-run liquor stores, and also allow Washington State Residents personal gardens of up to 50 square feet in size. The bill would legalize domestic hemp production, allowing WA residents to obtain a grower’s license for $5,000. Residents would also be able to obtain commercial cannabis licenses for the same price, but the product must be sold directly to the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

Jodie’s statement at the press conference:

Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, who introduced the bill, started the session off with a short history of cannabis and hemp, and spoke about the potential economic benefits of legalizing, taxing, and regulating the sales of cannabis in Washington State.

“In these trying times, do you think that $440 million in new revenue would be of interest?” she asked committee members. “I hope so. … I don’t think prohibition has worked. We need something new, and that something is to legalize, to regulate, and to tax cannabis. Now let me be clear, I don’t support legalization because I want to see more people use cannabis, I support it because I know an incredible amount of people actually do use it. Why shouldn’t the state reap the benefits from that use, rather than drug cartels or criminals. Not only will the state generate profits, it will also decrease costs, because the state spends about 25 million a year to arrest, to incarcerate, and to provide for the prosecution of people who simply have possession.”

Seattle’s elected City Attorney Peter S. Holmes, who recently criticized cannabis prohibition in a Seattle Times editorial, told the committee that the War on Marijuana has failed.

“The only clear result members of this committee should be aware of as far as marijuana prohibition has been is to create a highly profitable market for the product itself and to relinquish its control to criminals,” he said. “I’m here to speak unequivocally in support of ending this prohibition in favor of a rational and regulated manner.”

John McKay, the former U.S. attorney for Western Washington and the man who worked to put Canadian activist Marc Emery behind bars for selling marijuana seeds, has done a complete 180-degree turn away from the Drug-Warrior rhetoric he used in this 60 Minutes broadcast about the Emery case, and is now a staunch supporter of drug law reform.

“I want to address … the threat imposed by the black market of marijuana,” he said. “I believe that it is a dangerous law enforcement threat and it exists because of our failed policies on marijuana – in particular, our failed attempt to prohibit marijuana. Marijuana prohibition has failed at the federal level, it’s failed at the state level, its failed at the local level.”

Seattle city councilmember Tim Burgess said he supported the legislation because he wants to “see a more rational, predictable, and cost-effective response to drug use and crime in our communities. Continuing to prohibit adult possession and use of small amounts of cannabis and then using our police officers and the powers of the criminal justice system to enforce this prohibition is not rational and it is not cost effective.”

Cannabis activist Jodie Emery, wife of imprisoned seed-seller Marc Emery, talked to the committee about her successful pot-related business, CCHQ, and about the hardships of losing her husband to a possible five-year prison term because of the Drug War.

“I think it is obvious to say that if your loved one is taken away and imprisoned, it leaves an enormous void in your life,” she said. “I struggle with loneliness, I struggle without him being there, I worry about his safety, and that has caused a lot of harm to me and to all of his family and loved ones – and he has hurt nobody. He is just one of hundreds of thousands of people across America who have lost family members and friends.”

King County public defender Phillip Tavel and Chair of the Sociology Dept. at the University of California – Santa Cruz Dr. Craig Reinarman also spoke in support of the legislation.

The bill was not without its detractors, however.

Don Pierce of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and police chiefs and Seth Dawson of the Washington Association for Substance Abuse Prevention spoke against the bill, telling the committee that legalizing pot lead to an increase use and would hurt children.

The hearing’s most impassioned plea to end the War on Marijuana in Washington came from former Probation officer and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition member Matt McCally.

“The prohibitionists have had the run of play for the last 40 years,” he said. “This year is the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon first using the phrase war on drugs. And in those 40 years the prohibitionists have spent more than $1 trillion, they have shredded the US Constitution … have packed our courts … and they have packed our prisons. It is far beyond any of our peers in Western Europe, it is far beyond any of our peers in east Asia is now approaching the state of servitude we saw only in Communist Russia and Nazi Germany. And you would ask me to trade specifics with people who are in favor of this policy? Not at all not for a moment. It’s up to them to prove that they’ve been able through their fascist policies to keep marijuana out of the hands of our children and they have not done it.”

Concluding the hearing, former State Senator and medical marijuana patient George Rohrbacher spoke about his use of cannabis as pain reliever and the industrial use of hemp, and Heather Villanueva of the SEIU 775 gave the support of 40,000 long-term health care workers who see the bill as an alternative to massive budget cuts to state health care.

Read more about Washington House Bill 1550 or read the entire bill (PDF).

Watch the entire legalization hearing on Pot-TV.

Jeremiah Vandermeer is editor of Cannabis Culture. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Extra Video!

John McKay, who was the original prosecutor for Marc Emery, is now advocating legalization and was also testifying. Jodie met John McKay and introduced herself. This is the only video of it, but a transcript was obtained.

JE: Mr. McKay? I’m Jodie Emery.

JM: Hi Jodie.

JE: I want to let you know that I thank you for taking the stand that you have. I really do sincerely appreciate it, because people who are on the front lines —

JM: I’ve never met your husband, so I —

JE: I know you haven’t, and I know there’s no personal thing there, so that’s why I don’t hold anything against you — I just wanted to let you know that I do sincerely appreciate that you have taken a stand, because, again, the people who have been on the other side, who realize what we need to do, it’s sincerely appreciated…

JM: Thank you, that’s … very gracious.

JE: Thank you.



  1. Jack l eich on

    the drug war,or I call it war on americans is motivated totally by the lust for money by judges,lawyers,prison guards,cops! It is not for saving children,or saving people from deadly cannabis,its about using propaganda to steal from others in the name of the war on drugs. the corruption in our court system is rampant. sit in a courtroom for a couple hours. you will see the judges levy fine after fine for silly crap. one joint or two grams. fines,drug classes,probation. It all costs tons of money. so basically america is not the country I loved when I was younger. Now it is a militaristic socialist society when is absoulute rule and no freedom in america now. they can break in your door with no search warrant and if you defend yourself they have automatic weapons and will shoot your dogs or you. welcome to the land of the free.

  2. sKIZZLE42 on

    I’m from Washington State. We have had a state monopoly on liquor sales tht went in place after prohibition ended. Coscto worked hard to to change it but it failed by about 1% at the ballot last year. We need to get rid of the state run stores and open it up like the rest of the country does. We pay double the price of California.

    Now at first I wasn’t for it. But now that I think about it I’m maybe I’m for it. My main reason for not wanting to spout off about
    how much money weed could bring to the states tax coffers is because it seems irresponsible to assume that it would be the ultimate fix to our budget problems.
    Because if that was the case all our problems would be solved by just raising the tax over and over again on it. When we should really question where the money is spent in the first place and where money really comes, debt.
    But back to my revelation, So since we are one of two states that still have a state liquor stores the state will most likely push for it to be sold there. Why would they trust us with the pot when they don’t trust us to buy booze but from them. Now I am against a state monopoly on the party in our state. And it’s safe to assume that once we offer the state to tax and regulate our party pot, they will want to take over the medical pot too. But even though I think it’s a better environment to go to people who know what good stuff is suppose to taste like. There is another thing to consider. That’s federal authority.
    So if the pot was ran out of the state stores , what would that raid look like? Hard to say, but I know the feds would treat the states union employees better. It might look watered down and mass produced but at least folks will be safe. We would have a chance to actually test it out and show the country we can be responsible. And it might actually work. Even though it might destroy what has already grown up around the state to allow the state to take over. Until we can trust the feds it might be better to let the state take the fall.
    My biggest fears of a state monopoly on the MJ are. The money to lobby for future change would be in the hands of a few companies. And any power the state gains would take enormous power to remove, apathy.
    But if the MJ was sold in the free market we would have more variety and lower prices. And the money would be spread around. And more ideas on the future marijuana market in our state would have a decentralized source of money to make that change.
    And ultimately a state run marijuana store sounds more red then green. And shouldn’t weed the people control our pot?
    Conspiracies of state and government mind control are starting to fill my head. I don’t know if I could ever trust my state to be my dealer.

    I would support it being sold like our state sales beer and wine at normal stores, not like they sale whiskey only at their price and at their store.

  3. pfarthing6 on

    When speaking of something that concerns adult, nobody should be allowed to talk about “the children”. I’m so tired of that song. There is simply no argument there, it’s red herring. These same people who always go on about the children are also the ones that don’t believe that the government has any right to say anything about how they are raised. So, these hypocrites are really just indicating that they can’t raise their kids properly. If that’s the case, they should give them up to the state straight away. Oh, you can raise your kid properly and don’t want the state telling you what to do? Good, now shut your pie hole about the kids and lets talk about the issue!

  4. moldy on

    Nice Andy!

  5. Andy on

    The good sheriff and counselor, it must be known or pointed out they represent paychecks, money coming their way, generationally; along with their testimony of course. A buisness man should be pointed out, as Barry Cooper has pointed out and this is the realistic TRUTH: means undeniable. These men truly don’t care about anything but their immediate OWN, my opinion- my vote. Take into account that I know COPS that are to be admired, discipline, responsibility and upholding the highest moral value that is written every day, a leather suit, batman! The counselor is the snake oil salesman and the sheriff is the sidewalk yeller. White collar stock market, human trafficking, penal system representatives with the keys to all the greatest wide ranging tools, the greatest zhombie minds- think tanks, who work deep underground, down long shiney circular tunnels, perfectly dressed and pinpointed; dude never forget “dude”. Let the music play baby ree ree darrrr dee nau nau.

  6. Anonymous on

    Hear hear: cannabis is more than safe, it’s healthy. It’s practically the best plant on Earth, considering it’s many uses (hemp fuel/plastics/textiles/foods, leisure and very importantly, medicines)! There is no good reason for it to be illegal.

  7. Anonymous on

    “Don Pierce of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and police chiefs and Seth Dawson of the Washington Association for Substance Abuse Prevention spoke against the bill, telling the committee that legalizing pot lead to an increase use and would hurt children.”

    And what might that statement be based on? Didn’t bother to cite any actual evidence to back up his statement. I guess if the Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs says it then it must be true. Why would they lie? Oh right, they’re evil bastards who get off on shooting people and Cannabis gives them a convenient excuse and they also like to steal people’s stuff for their own use and Cannabis provides a convenient pretext. Makes sense now.