Northwest Now

Jan 28, 2012 2:42 PM by KCPQ- Seattle

WA initiative to legalize pot certified, will be going to Legislature first

Olympia -- The Washington Secretary of State's Office on Friday certified the required number of voter signatures on an initiative to legalize marijuana, meaning the measure will be put before the Legislature for a vote and, if it fails to act, it will be placed on the November ballot.

Initiative 502 would authorize the Washington State Liquor Control Board to regulate the production and distribution of marijuana for sale to adults 21 and over through privately owned and operated marijuana-only stores.

Under the proposal, 81 percent of a new marijuana excise tax would be earmarked for prevention, research, education, and health care. The remainder of the excise tax, and state and local retail sales taxes, would be directed to the state's general fund and local budgets.

"It's time to for a new approach to marijuana policy in Washington state," said Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, one of I-502's 10 sponsors. "Passing this measure will free up law enforcement resources, allowing police and prosecutors to focus on violent criminals instead of low-level marijuana offenders.

"Since the year 2000, over one hundred thousand adults have been arrested for simple marijuana possession in Washington state. That is not a good use of law enforcement's time."

Now that I-502 is being sent to the Legislature for consideration, lawmakers have three options: adopt it, reject it or refuse to act (in which case it goes on the November ballot), or propose an alternative measure on the same subject (in which case both versions go on the November ballot).

"We are hopeful that the Legislature will give I-502 a full and fair hearing in the coming weeks. It's important for our elected officials to thoroughly examine the issues surrounding I-502, including the costs of our current marijuana laws and the potential benefits from this measure," said I-502 co-sponsor Dr. Kim Marie Thorburn, former Spokane regional health director.

Two former U.S. attorneys, John McKay and Katrina Pflaumer, and several other esteemed judicial, law enforcement, and elected officials have come out in support of I-502.

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