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I-502 discussion important – and entertaining

Post by Brian O'Neill on Oct. 14, 2012 at 10:02 pm with 9 Comments »
October 15, 2012 8:45 am
I-502/ courtesy of

Many local and national issues await our decision on November 6. One of those guaranteed to resonate on many levels is Initiative 502, the measure to legalize marijuana. Its controversial presence on the ballot may be the final lap for legalization- but what a long and strange trip it has been.

Forget about jobs and the economy; that bitter and acrimonious debate is as full of rhetoric as it is never-ending. For shocking surprises, surreal parallels and unholy relationships, no issue has more political drama than the pre-election flap over legalized pot.

If the road up to this point has been full of bizarre twists, the folks down in Olympia are largely to blame. For years our state legislators have spun a confusing web of laws, based on varying public opinion regarding marijuana. The disparate agendas have created a legal free-for-all for medical patients, casual users, municipalities and law enforcement. Our current marijuana statute, courtesy of our political proxy in Olympia, is a confusing and untenable mess.

Say what you want about I-502, but at least it puts the decision into the hands of the voting public, where it should have been all along. With the election looming, let’s take a look at some of the people behind both the opposing campaigns.

In the “Yes” camp are the doctors, attorneys, patients and groups who have a vested interest in making medical marijuana a simple and easily accessed product. There are also the long term legalization advocates, such as PBS’ Rick Steves (America’s khaki-wearing European travel guru) who gave $450,000 to the “Yes on I-502″ campaign. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition,an advocacy group with police ties, has supported the initiative, along with politicians like State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate..

On the opposing side are a much larger bloc of politicians (most running for office), including gubernatorial candidates Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee. Local law enforcement agencies, at least those with the temerity to speak on the record, arre opposed to I-502, as arre several federal law enforcement officials who sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, requesting a firm denouncement of I-502’s placement on Washington’s ballot (similar measures are also up for a vote in Oregon and Colorado).

All of the aforementioned opposition have been exceptionally quiet, however, leaving the heavy-lifting to a few individuals. One is a former narcotics detective (whom I knew twenty years ago) named Pat Slack. Though his name sounds like a character from a Cheech and Chong movie, Slack is the head of the Snohomish County Drug Task Force, a position which gives him a degree of credibility as an opponent. The only “No” voices loudly joining his are recreational marijuana users who don’t like I-502’s restrictions because they are – how would one put it? – restrictive.

It is the only initiative where individuals from the same campaign may have met on the opposite sides of handcuffs. Irony, thy name is I-502.

Should this initiative pass, the biggest question mark will be the reaction from the federal government. Would the Department of Justice immediately start raiding mom and pop grow-ops?; Would it block federal grant money?; Or would it exert pressure on our uppity state by filing an injunction against I-502’s passage? Given the current lack of communication from D.C., “Yes,” “Maybe” and “No” would all reasonable answers to these questions.

Time is ticking away and November 6 is fast approaching. When it arrives we will know if Washington will become the first state to legalize marijuana (and cross constitutional swords with the feds), or whether advocates will be heading back to the drawing board. Either way, it will be interesting to see if the strange bedfellows, who have made an unnatural peace in their respective “Yes” and “No” camps, will drift away, never to see each other again.

What a long, strange trip it has been.

Leave a comment Comments → 9
  1. I’d like to know, in general terms, if politicians that are apposed to I-502 are against it due to moral reasons (drugs are bad mmm’kay), political reasons (my constituents will kill me if I support this), or legal reasons (federal crime). This is also a surprisingly non partisan subject.

  2. notSpicoli says:

    Gandlf Good question. We’ll see how many closeted anti-prohibitionists out there who will vote for it but would never say so. At least two state rep candidates intimated that they were voting for it but wouldn’t say so publicly because of fears their constituents wouldn’t go for it or an opponent would use it against them.

  3. If they can make good things out of hemp OK.
    Smoking pot doesn’t interest me because I have asthma.
    Washington State’s lungs goodbye.
    Winds really kicking up outside. I like storms anyway.

  4. notSpicoli says:

    Alinup. Most people don’t smoke marijuana. However, everyone is affected by the policy of marijuana prohibition. Currently the huge, underground marijuana business is unregulated and untaxed. The ineffective enforcement is expensive and draws from resources better spend elsewhere.

    I-502 contains strict regulatory safeguards for our highways, neighborhoods, and children. While marijuana is not harmless, the social costs of marijuana prohibition far exceed those of marijuana itself. The funds generated are directed at programs to reduce use.

    We can continue with our present policy despite all the evidence to the contrary, insist that what we are doing now is working. This will satisfy those who are making huge, untaxed profits or financially benefitting from prohibition in other ways. I think it’s time for a new approach.

  5. moms4marijuana says:

    Also in the “Yes” camp is Former US Attorney John McKay, who is featured in one of the more compelling television ads advocating for the passage of I-502. Glaring omission, Brian. Intentional?

  6. Earth_watch says:

    Oh my good gawd… I can’t wait for election day to be over just so we’re no longer subjected to notSpicoli’s broken-record comments anymore (clearly a concocted commenter created solely for I-502 support).

    Although the I-502 proponents wish to distance themselves from the recreational users, that is the group to most possibly benefit from the tiny legalization (despite additional criminalization) if this initiative passes… to the contrary, every medical user I’ve spoken with is against I-502 (though the I-502 proponents very much want us to think patients are for it).

    One thing you’re right about Brian: although I’m typically on the other side of your opinions, if you’re part of the law enforcement group opposing I-502 then I’m with you on this one… for different reasons, but still with you in opposition.

    Please vote no on I-502. This initiative is just a veiled attempt of the state Liquor Board making a last gasp desperate effort to exploit any substance it can to make up for lost alcohol revenue.


  7. Highlander420 says:

    Questions that still haven’t been answered by New Approach Washington folks about I-502’s harsh new DUI law for cannabis consumers…

    How many bong hits can a first time user have before they go over 5 nanograms?

    Where’s the chart for cannabis like alcohol that shows approximate amount of drinks I can have before being legally impaired?

  8. notSpicoli says:

    “…we’re no longer subjected to notSpicoli’s broken-record comments anymore (clearly a concocted commenter created solely for I-502 support).”

    Earth_Watch On August 29, 2009 I wrote my first post. I have been blogging for years and working on reform long before I-502. I worked on I-1068 and with continue to work with the nation’s oldest and largest marijuana reform organization.

    I am anxious to no longer be subjected to you just making up things and trying to convince others that it is the truth. The only thing “clearly concocted” is your assertion. I’m not going to call you a liar just because you make things up and try to pass them off as true. I’m just going to ask that you stop doing it.

  9. Earth_watch says:

    Weak. Whenever someone says, “I’m not going to call you a liar” that’s what they’re doing. No matter. It would support your name calling, though, if you spell out what I’m supposedly lying about, which you’ve neglected do, of course.

    Sure, I don’t doubt you’re a professional promoter who’s been working on similar campaigns elsewhere. It would be nice if you posted a link to the “blog” you refer to, but until then, yes, I will continue to suspect “notSpicoli” has been created just to support I-502 until after the election.

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