State Dems back marijuana legalization initiative

The state Democratic Central Committee threw its support behind a marijuana legalization initiative this weekend, calling the continuing prohibition against the state’s second-biggest cash crop a waste of public money.

At a meeting in Bellingham, the Democrats cited law enforcement costs — “simple marijuana possession charges now account for fully half of all drug arrests in Washington” — and the potential to raise $215 million in new tax revenue each year if Initiative 502 passes, among other things.

Initiative 502 is sponsored by the ACLU of Washington and most prominently endorsed by former U.S. Attorney John McKay, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and travel guru Rick Steves. If paid signature-gathering efforts succeed as expected, I-502 will go to the state Legislature this upcoming session. If the Legislature punts, the initiative will be on the November 2012 ballot.

Unlike previous efforts aimed at simply de-criminalizing marijuana, I-502 would allow pot to be sold in stores licensed by the state Liquor Control Board, with hefty mark-ups.

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