Washington voters on Tuesday passed Initiative 502 to legalize, regulate and tax sales of small amounts of marijuana to adults, a measure that flies in the face of federal law and policy that still treats possession of cannabis as a crime. A similar measure in Colorado was ahead, and Massachusetts became the 18th state to approve use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Washington, by its vote, became a national pacesetter in the drive to reform drug laws. The reform effort was led by former federal prosecutors, the Seattle City Attorney and an ex-top FBI agent — all former warrior in the 40-year “War on Drugs.”
“I’d say the answer is probably a combination of the fact that the spirit of this Washington is to live and let live, and the character of Washington is very pragmatic: We have a low tolerance for policies that create more trouble than they’re worth, especially if they involve sticking your nose in someone else’s business,” said Alison Holcomb, an attorney who led the I-502 campaign. Or, put bluntly by Western Washington University student Patrick Stickney as he explained overwhelming youth support for I-502:
“We see the moralistic ideologues who want to deny the rights of same sex couples but are on their third or fourth marriage, who decry marijuana but get caught doing hard drugs or abusing pain killers . . . It just doesn’t make sense why so many people spend so much time nosing into what’s happening next door, when we have problems in our own houses.”
The marijuana initiative was garnering just under 56 percent of the vote statewide, and 63.82 percent in populous King County. Its passage represents a kind of incrementalism for which the state is famous. It has been nearly 40 years since a group called Blossom Seattle put a marijuana decriminalization on the city ballot. It lost. In years since, the Emerald City became home to Seattle Hempfest, the best attended marijuana legalization event in North America. The city voted in 2003 for Initiative 75, making marijuana the lowest enforcement priority for the Seattle Police Department.
Initiative 502 spokespersons this year included ex-U.S. Attorneys John McKay and Kate Pflaumer, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, TV travel guru Rick Steves and Charles Mandigo former FBI agent in charge of the Seattle office. It was also supported by luminaries of the state medical association and bar association.
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