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?)
As Washington weighs its first chance to legalize recreational marijuana, prominent groups are taking sides about the initiative's potential impact on children. Initiative 502 got an unexpected vote of confidence from the Children's Alliance, a Seattle-based advocacy group with more than 100 social-service agencies as members. The Alliance's board voted to endorse I-502 for a specific reason: Children in minority households pay "a terrible price" for racially biased enforcement of marijuana laws.
On Nov. 6 Washington voters will decide whether to directly confront the federal ban on marijuana and embrace a sprawling plan to legalize, regulate and tax sales at state-licensed pot stores. Would the Obama administration pick a legal fight over states' rights to try to block Initiative 502? Would federal prosecutors charge marijuana growers and retailers, even if they are authorized by state law? Or would — as some opponents and supporters predict — federal authorities denounce the law but largely leave Washington alone?
In its fiscal note on I-502, the state Office of Financial Management estimated the total state and local government revenue from marijuana at $566 million. That’s roughly what the state budgets in taxpayer money for its six universities. Most of the marijuana money, however, would be earmarked for health-related spending (see chart). Putting I-502 into effect would also save the money now spent on law enforcement. The bottom line: Legalizing marijuana offers government a pot of money, both in revenue and in savings.
In Oregon - a state with one of the nation's highest rates of pot use and a reputation for pushing the boundaries on marijuana laws - organizers are looking at a bank account with just $1,800. Marijuana activists who have ploughed big bucks into campaigns in the other two states complain the Oregon measure is poorly written and doesn't poll well. It didn't qualify for the ballot until July, severely limiting the time available to sway voters. They also don't care for the man with a blemished record who's pushing Oregon's measure. More than $4 million has flowed to Washington and close to a million in Colorado.
A new crime-data analysis has found that 241,000 people in Washington were arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession over the last quarter-century, adding fuel to a campaign seeking to make this state the first to legalize recreational marijuana sales. The analysis estimates those arrests translated to nearly $306 million in police and court costs — $194 million of it the past decade. African Americans were arrested twice as often as whites for possession in Washington in the past 25 years, even though whites use marijuana more.
upporters say passing Initiative 502 on Nov. 6 could make drug laws more reasonable, prevent thousands of arrests a year, and bring Washington hundreds of millions of dollars to help pay for schools, health care and basic government services. It could also set up a big fight with the federal government. Voters in Colorado and Oregon are considering similar measures. But based on polls, Washington's initiative might stand the best chance of passing.
Former Drug Enforcement Agency administrators and directors of the Office of National Drug Control Policy voiced a strong reminder to the U.S. Department of Justice that even if voters in Colorado, Oregon and Washington pass ballot measures to legalize marijuana use for adults and tax its sale, the legalization of marijuana still violates federal law and the passage of these measures could trigger a "Constitutional showdown."
Washington is emerging as the most likely state to be the first to legalize marijuana according to new polls. But even with a huge fundraising advantage, and less organized opposition, Initiative 502 is far from a lock as voters begin casting ballots. A poll released today by Strategies 360 finds a 54-to-38 lead for I-502, with about 7 percent undecided (rounding errors cause it not add up to 100 percent). A larger poll last week, the KCTS 9 Washington Poll, gave I-502 a 51-to-41 lead among all voters; among likely voters, it leads 47-40 percent, indicating considerable uncertainty. (See also: Marijuana Initiative 502 a tough sell in Eastern Washington)
If you live in Colorado, Washington or Oregon, your state may soon be the first in the nation to allow possession of marijuana—in limited quantities—for recreational use. It all depends on what happens Nov. 6. Pot is no stranger to the ballot in Colorado, where smokers consume more than two million ounces of marijuana each year and the state spends more than $40 million annually enforcing its prohibition. A ballot initiative to legalize marijuana failed 59% to 41% in 2006, six years after a referendum approved medical marijuana for use in the state.
Voters approved Amendment 64 legalizing recreational marijuana use in Colorado on Tuesday, making this one of two states to end prohibition of the drug but also raising new legal questions and setting up potential court battles. Among the opponents was Gov. John Hickenlooper, who said that "the voters have spoken and we have to respect their will. This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don't break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly."
Washington enthusiastically leapt into history Tuesday, becoming the first state, with Colorado, to reject federal drug-control policy and legalize recreational marijuana use. Initiative 502 was winning 55 to 45 percent, with support from more than half of Washington's counties, rural and urban. The vote puts Washington and Colorado to the left of the Netherlands on marijuana law, and makes them the nexus of a new social experiment with uncertain consequences.
Colorado and Washington became the first U.S. states to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana for recreational use in defiance of federal law, setting the stage for a possible showdown with the Obama administration. Another ballot measure to remove criminal penalties for personal possession and cultivation of recreational cannabis was defeated in Oregon. The Drug Policy Alliance, a national advocacy group that backed the initiatives, said the outcome in Washington and Colorado reflected growing national support for liberalized pot laws.
Those who have argued for decades that legalizing and taxing weed would be better than a costly, failed U.S. drug war have their chance to prove it, as Colorado and Washington became the first states to allow pot for recreational use. While the measures earned support from broad swaths of the electorate in both states, they are likely to face resistance from federal drug warriors. As of Wednesday, authorities did not say whether they would challenge the new laws.
In three states — Washington, Colorado, and Massachusetts — efforts to liberalize marijuana laws succeeded last night. In Washington and Colorado, the new laws enacted go even further than past efforts. In these two states, fully regulated recreational pot use has now been approved by voters. Maybe these victories shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, in 2011 Gallup found that a plurality of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, and in 2010 fully 70% of Americans supported using marijuana to alleviate pain and suffering. What does all this mean for the four-decade-old War on Drugs?
Michael Weissenstein, E. Eduardo Castillo (Associated Press)
07 November 2012
The legalization of recreational marijuana in the U.S. states of Washington and Colorado will force Mexico to rethink its efforts to halt marijuana smuggling across the border, the main adviser to Mexico's president-elect said. Luis Videgaray, head of incoming President Enrique Pena Nieto's transition team, told Radio Formula that the Mexican administration taking power in three weeks remains opposed to drug legalization.
Colorado officials and marijuana advocates on Wednesday looked toward an imminent confrontation with the federal government one day after voters in the state endorsed a measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Gov. John Hickenlooper said he is trying to speak soon with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to learn how the Justice Department will respond to the legalization measure's passage. (See also: Colorado attorney general Suthers says he will respect marijuana measure)
Washington's grand social experiment with marijuana legalization begins Dec. 6 with a simple step: On that date, it is legal to have an ounce of the stuff, and there is little the federal government can do about it. But how the state takes the next big step — transforming the marijuana black market into a closed, regulated and taxed marketplace — is unclear. And the federal government didn't help clarify its potential response on Wednesday. (See also: I-502 Fact Sheet from ACLU )
Voters in Colorado and Washington state who approved the recreational use of marijuana Tuesday sent a salvo from the ballot box that will ricochet around Latin America, a region that's faced decades of bloodshed from the U.S.-led war on drugs. Experts said the moves were likely to give momentum to countries such as Uruguay that are marching toward legalization, to undercut Mexican criminal gangs and to embolden those who demand greater debate about how to combat illegal substances.