Backers of an effort to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana use in Washington state submitted more than 340,000 signatures Thursday to try to qualify their initiative, a move protested by some legalization supporters who say the proposal would hurt medical-marijuana patients. About a dozen protesters carried signs that read "Legalize, not penalize," and shouted as members of New Approach turned in signatures for Initiative 502 to the Legislature.
Some B.C. medical health officials are now advocating for marijuana to be legalized, arguing that the government's costly enforcement activities are making little difference. The Health Officers' Council of B.C., which represents B.C.'s medical health officers and other physicians, researchers and consultants, is endorsing a report, How Not to Protect Community Health and Safety by Stop the Violence BC, that suggests a direct link between the province's $7-billion illegal cannabis industry and the increase in gang-related homicides in B.C. from 1997 to 2009.
The youth vote helped propel Barack Obama to the presidency, but that enthusiasm has declined sharply. One issue might reignite youthful enthusiasm: marijuana — partly its medical use, but especially the right to recreational use free of potential arrest. Police arrest youth for marijuana possession by the hundreds of thousands, threatening life prospects for a young man or woman saddled with a permanent "drug arrest" record that's easily located by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies and banks. Small wonder that 62 percent of young Americans (ages 18 to 29) now favor legalizing marijuana, as a Gallup poll reported.
King County authorities and the Washington State Public Stadium Authority have agreed to stop harassing people collecting signatures outside the Seahawks football stadium for an initiative that would legalize and tax recreational marijuana in the state. One of the collectors, Benjamin Schroeter, was arrested Nov. 13 after he refused an order to stop collecting signatures for Initiative 502 in a public area outside the stadium where fans were tailgating.
While it is allowed in some form in 16 states and Washington, DC, Colorado is the leader in trying to make medicinal pot a legitimate business. It has been legal since a voter-approved amendment to the state constitution in 2000, but the for-profit side only took off two years ago after the legislature allowed individual counties and towns more flexibility in interpreting the rules. Over a hundred have done so.
As proponents of a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana near the deadline to turn in signatures, they face a puzzling picture of the electorate. An independent poll this summer found a slender majority of Coloradans support legalizing cannabis. But whenever marijuana has actually appeared on the ballot in Colorado in recent years — most commonly as measures to ban dispensaries and other marijuana businesses — it has generally fared poorly.
Legalising pot, we wrote in this space back in July 2009, would have two obvious benefits: generating revenue and dragging a shady business out into the light. Nearly three years later those arguments remain stronger than ever – the state is running at a deficit and the flare-ups between the gangsters that deal the stuff have become routine. Unfortunately, despite the change in government, the message coming from parliament also remains the same: no.
Four former Vancouver mayors have endorsed a coalition calling for an end to pot prohibition in Canada that they blame for rampant gang violence. Larry Campbell, Mike Harcourt, Sam Sullivan and Philip Owen all signed an open letter to politicians in B.C. Wednesday claiming a change in the law will reduce gang violence. The former mayors support the position of the Stop the Violence BC coalition, which recently released a survey showing most B.C. residents favour an end to the current marijuana laws. (See the complete text of their manifesto)
An effort to decriminalize and tax recreational marijuana sales for adults in Washington state has won some high-profile endorsements — including from two former Seattle U.S. attorneys and the former head of the FBI here — and its sponsors are well on their way to collecting enough signatures to place the measure before the Legislature. But even if backers gather enough signatures for Initiative 502 and the measure ultimately becomes law, the effort is a gamble because, in the event of a conflict with federal statutes, the feds would trump.
Marijuana could soon be legalised in Copenhagen, after the city voted overwhelmingly in favour of a scheme that would see the drug sold through a network of state-run shops and cafes. The scheme, if approved by the Danish parliament at the start of next year, could make the city the first to fully legalise, rather than simply tolerate, marijuana consumption. "We are thinking of perhaps 30 to 40 public sales houses, where the people aren't interested in selling you more, they're interested in you," said Mikkel Warming, the Mayor in charge of Social Affairs at Copenhagen City Council
According a recent CBS News poll conducted at the end of October, a slim majority of 51 percent continues to think that marijuana use should be illegal. But support for specifically allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for serious medical conditions - or legalized "medical" marijuana - is far stronger: 77 percent Americans think it should be allowed.
I-502 has about 230,000 signatures and almost certainly will qualify for the November 2012 ballot. If I-502 were to pass, the state Liquor Control Board estimates that about 445,000 people — 10 percent of the adults over age 21 — would use marijuana. The analysis estimates that 95 percent of users would consume two grams a week, and the remaining 5 percent would smoke 2 grams a day. Based on those estimates, I-502 would make marijuana a top-five agricultural product in Washington, with gross receipts of nearly $582 million. With a 25 percent tax at each link of the production, distribution and retail chain, I-502 would generate $215 million a year, with nearly two-thirds of it earmarked for research and addiction prevention.
In a parliamentary debate in the House of Commons, David Cameron said: "I ask the Labour government not to return to retribution and war on drugs. That has been tried and we all know that it does not work." That was in December 2002. And as a member of the home affairs select committee on drug misuse, Cameron supported the following recommendation: "That the government initiates a discussion within the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of alternative ways – including the possibility of legalisation and regulation – to tackle the global drugs dilemma."
Santos spelled out the radical ideas which he hopes will create a fresh approach. He said: "A new approach should try and take away the violent profit that comes with drug trafficking… If that means legalising, and the world thinks that's the solution, I will welcome it. I'm not against it." But he is clear that any initiatives need to be part of a co-ordinated international plan of action and he rules out any unilateral action by Colombia. "What I won't do is to become the vanguard of that movement because then I will be crucified."
A former federal prosecutor and two former judges who have not only observed but also enforced marijuana laws at the federal, state and local levels ask that these laws be changed. It is time for a different, more effective approach. That's why they endorse Initiative 502, which would decriminalize marijuana in our state and make a long-overdue change for the better in public policy.
GOP presidential candidate Gary Johnson drew headlines earlier this month when he said he would issue a full presidential pardon for anyone serving a prison sentence for marijuana. He elaborated on that promise adding that it's only a matter of time before marijuana is legalized. "Clearly it is when, not if," he said of legalizing cannabis. "When 50 percent of the population says to the other 50 percent, 'You belong behind bars for your actions,' that's not good law, that is just not good law at all."
Marijuana legalization in Washington has been an activist's pipe dream for decades, but a new campaign with deep pockets and prominent supporters is poised to force the state Legislature to vote on the issue or send it to the 2012 presidential ballot.The group, New Approach Washington, is the strongest mainstream campaign to date, since former federal prosecutor John McKay backed the campaign.