Enforcing marijuana laws cost Washington more than $211 million last decade, according to a new study released as the state's voters consider whether to legalize and tax marijuana for recreational use. The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington released the figure Tuesday, accompanied by an interactive map showing the costs by county.
The initiative to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in Washington, Initiative 502, was estimated on Friday to raise up to $1.9 billion in new tax revenue over five years — or zero. The wild swing, included in an analysis by the state Office of Financial Management, reflects broad uncertainty about the potential federal intervention in an initiative that would set up the nation's first regulated market for recreational marijuana use.
The marijuana reform community in Washington State has become severely fractured, with various groups running competing initiatives and taking opposing positions on whether the state should be in the dispensary licensing business. The most recent debate is over I-502 by New Approach Washington, which tried to tailor it to receive the most possible support. In addition to setting up a state licensing system for marijuana production and sales, it would criminalize driving with more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in the system. Some medical marijuana patients oppose that, saying it's an arbitrary limit and they'd never be able to drive. (See also: Legalize marijuana? Like this?)