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So where’s that campaign against legalizing marijuana?

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on Sep. 5, 2012 at 4:12 pm with 4 Comments »
September 6, 2012 11:34 am

Prediction for November: Washington’s going to legalize marijuana.

As far as I can tell, there’s little credible opposition to Initiative 502. (I’m not counting the “medical marijuana” people – who have a mercenary stake in its defeat – as credible.)

Last Wednesday, we were supposed to do a joint television interview of the initiative’s opponents and supporters. For something like this, we normally call the campaigns, and they eagerly supply the speakers.

The sponsors of I-502 responded immediately. But it proved hard even to find opponents willing and able to make their case in front of TVW’s cameras.

We started with Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, the state’s most prominent drug opponent. He begged off because he was in the middle of a re-election campaign. But he gave us a list of people who might help.

We went through one name after another. They couldn’t do it because they worked for a public agency, because they couldn’t make it that particular morning, because of this, because of that.

Priscilla Lisicich offered to take up the standard on behalf of Safe Streets, but we needed a team – not a single brave soul – on that side of the table.

It dawned on me that there is NO team. I found ad hoc opponents here and there, but no coherent statewide campaign against I-502. We were trying to invent a campaign that apparently doesn’t exist. That’s not our job, to say the least.

We wound up canceling the event.

Prior to elections, we often run point-counterpoint opeds about ballot measures. Today, my colleague Cheryl Tucker went looking for someone to write the counterpoint opposing I-502.

She called Anthony Martinelli, a medical marijuana guy whose name appears at the top of the “statement against” in the voters pamphlet. It turns out Martinelli has dropped out of the battle.

Take that back. There is no “battle” over legalization in Washington, except among marijuana users who want it legal in different ways and for different reasons. I think the initiative is going to pass by default.


It looks like I mischaracterized Martinelli as a “medical marijuana guy.” Here’s part of a clarification he sent me (the other part is his comment below):

it’s not a big deal, but I’m not sure where I’ve stated or where the assumption is that I’m a “medical marijuana guy”. I fully support patients rights, but I’m currently working for the legalization of cannabis for all adults as the Communications Director for Sensible Washington (which is in opposition to I-502:

Leave a comment Comments → 4
  1. AnthonyM1230 says:

    A quick note on this article:

    When Cheryl Tucker called me, she was asking specifically for Dr. Freng. I let her know that I didn’t have his information, but that I would try to get back to her.

    I didn’t have his information, despite us being on the Voters’ Pamphlet together as 2 of the 6 on the “against” side of Initiative 502, because he’s against all legalization. The first 3 people listed on the “against” side are separate from the other 3 (Douglas Hiatt, Dr. Gil and myself are all pro-legalization but anti-502, the rest are against any legalization – besides appearing on the pamphlet together, the two groups have no connection).

    If I had known she simply wanted someone in opposition, or someone that’s part of the official NO on I-502 campaign, I could have easily supplied her with a name (Douglas Hiatt, criminal defense attorney and founder of Sensible Washington is calling her as I type this).

    You can read more on why Sensible Washington opposes Initiative 502 here:

  2. alindasue says:

    Mr. Martinelli,

    After reading your arguments on your site, I can see why you wouldn’t want I-502 to pass. I find myself agreeing with you. I am one who doesn’t necessarily approve of marijuana use – just as I don’t approve of alcohol use – but I can see that all the arguments for ending alcohol prohibition when they did are equally applicable to marijuana prohibition now. I look forward to seeing your own initiative when you submit it next year and wish you the best in your endeavors.

  3. hannibal says:

    Callahan obviously did not contact no On I-502.
    Is his internet broken??

  4. notSpicoli says:

    During Prop 19 it became difficult to find people who would publicly debate against it as they invariably ended up looking foolish. One debate had the “no’ person, not properly vetted, stating that he was totally for repealing marijuana prohibition, he just didn’t like Prop 19.

    One group opposing I-502, besides the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, is Jim Cooper’s WASAVP.

    As I have stated before, arguing for the repeal of marijuana prohibition is relatively easy. Arguing for the maintenance of prohibition is a real challenge. If the repeal of marijuana prohibition were based on logic, rational thought, science, accountability, and effective public policy, prohibition would have ended decades ago. Many who oppose marijuana legalization, when you get down to it, do so from a moral argument that boils down to, “I just don’t think it’s right.” and that is hard to argue away.

    Fortunately, I-502 is appealing to even a number of that group as they come to realize that I-502 is not a pro-marijuana bill. It is a measure that demands the the marijuana industry be regulated and taxed whether they like it or not. It is a harm reduction strategy that acknowledges that marijuana is not harmless, but prohibition is far worse. I-502 provides the regulatory safeguards needed to protect our children, our highways, and our neighborhoods.

    Marijuana is not going away, regardless of the fate of I-502.

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