The Washington state Democratic Central Committee endorsed a marijuana legalization initiative in the state over the weekend, calling cannabis prohibition a waste of taxpayer money.
Simple marijuana possession charges now account for fully half of all drug arrests in Washington, according to the Democrats, who pointed out pot’s status as the second biggest cash crop in the state. reports Jonathan Martin at The Seattle Times
The group said cannabis has the potential to raise $215 million in new tax revenues each year if a current legalization drive, Initiative 502, also known as New Approach Washington, passes.
I-502 is sponsored by the ACLU of Washington and endorsed by prominent figures including former U.S. Attorney John McKay (who was responsible for the prosecution of “Prince of Pot” Marc Emery), Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and travel host Rick Steves.
It is expected to gather enough signatures to go before the state Legislature in the upcoming session. At that point, the Legislature can either take action or, more likely, let the initiative be decided by the state’s voters on the November 2012 ballot.
Unlike previous efforts like Sensible Washington’s two unsuccessful drives to simply remove all penalties for marijuana, I-502 would set up a regulatory structure, allowing heavily taxed cannabis to be sold in state stores licensed by the Washington Liquor Control Board.
Medical marijuana advocates have expressed grave concern that I-502 would criminalize driving over a codified blood THC level of five nanograms per milliliter (5 ng/ml). Advocates maintain that many medical marijuana patients, who must use cannabis heavily to control the symptoms of terminal or debilitating diseases, never drop below that level, even when completely sober.
Cannabis metabolites typically stay in the human system for 30 to 60 days after last ingestion.
Concerns about the DUI provision, the low allowable limit of marijuana (one ounce), and the prohibition on home cultivation, among other concerns, have led to the formation of a group, Patients Against New Approach Washington
, on Facebook.
I-502 would allow adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, but would not allow any home cultivation. Marijuana growers would have to be licensed by the state, and marijuana could only be bought at state stores licensed and regulated by the Liquor Control Board.