WA State Marijuana Legalization Headed for Ballot

Jan 29, 2012

Sup­port­ers of legal­iz­ing mar­i­juana for recre­ational use have sub­mit­ted enough sig­na­tures to put the mat­ter to vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton state in a bold move that, if suc­cess­ful, could put Olympia on a col­li­sion course with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. The group New Approach Wash­ing­ton sub­mit­ted nearly 278,000 valid sig­na­tures for the mea­sure, more than required to put it on the Novem­ber bal­lot, David Ammons, a spokesman for the Wash­ing­ton Sec­re­tary of State’s office, said in a state­ment. The move comes as fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors have sought to crank up pres­sure on sev­eral mostly west­ern states, includ­ing Wash­ing­ton, that have legal­ized med­ical mar­i­juana even as can­nibis remains clas­si­fied as an ille­gal nar­cotic under fed­eral law. The pro­posal, if approved by vot­ers, would allow mar­i­juana sales to peo­ple 21 and older, per­mit state taxes to be col­lected on the drug, ban pot adver­tis­ing and pro­hibit dri­ving under the influ­ence of cannabis. Sup­port­ers of legal­iz­ing mar­i­juana, who include act­ing Seat­tle city attor­ney Peter Holmes, say the fed­eral pro­hi­bi­tion on the drug has not curbed use and that it enriches drug car­tels. “This is the grown-up approach to reg­u­lat­ing a rel­a­tively harm­less drug,” Holmes said. Oppo­nents of legal­iza­tion say it would lead to more abuse of the drug, includ­ing by young peo­ple, and that under­ground sales would con­tinue. “There will always be a black mar­ket. That’s been proven with cig­a­rettes with the tobacco indus­try,” said Calv­ina Fay, head of the Florida-based Drug Free Amer­ica Foun­da­tion. “Even though tobacco is legal and it’s reg­u­lated, there’s still a huge global black mar­ket.” Wash­ing­ton is one of 16 states that, along with the nation’s cap­i­tal, have decrim­i­nal­ized med­ical mar­i­juana. But fed­eral agents have raided med­ical mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries in sev­eral states, includ­ing Wash­ing­ton, in recent months. Under state law, the recre­ational legal­iza­tion ini­tia­tive next heads to the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture, which has the option of avoid­ing a pop­u­lar vote by itself enact­ing the pro­posal to legal­ize mar­i­juana, Ammons said. The leg­is­la­ture could also allow the mea­sure to go to the bal­lot along­side an alter­na­tive from law­mak­ers, Ammons said. Ali­son Hol­comb, cam­paign direc­tor of New Approach Wash­ing­ton, has said she did not expect the leg­is­la­ture would enact the pro­posal on its own, but would leave the issue for vot­ers to decide. In 2010, a mea­sure to legal­ize mar­i­juana in Cal­i­for­nia lost at the bal­lot box when less than 47 per­cent of vot­ers approved it. No mod­ern, afflu­ent nation has ever legal­ized com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion of mar­i­juana, accord­ing to research orga­ni­za­tion RAND Corp. In the Nether­lands, famous for its Ams­ter­dam cafes where guests buy and smoke mar­i­juana, author­i­ties allow adults to buy the drug but the coun­try offi­cially has a pol­icy that com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion of it is ille­gal, said Beau Kilmer, co-director of the RAND Drug Pol­icy Research Cen­ter. Report­ing By Alex Dobuzin­skis; Edit­ing by Cyn­thia John­ston Source: Reuters (Wire) Author: Alex Dobuzin­skis Pub­lished: Jan­u­ary 27, 2012 Copy­right: 2012 Thom­son Reuters

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WA State Mar­i­juana Legal­iza­tion Headed for Ballot

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