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Pot legalization backers get green light to roll out initiative petitions

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Feb. 17, 2010 at 4:37 pm with 9 Comments »
February 18, 2010 9:16 am

Although several bills seeking to legalize pot went up in smoke this legislative session, supporters of a similar citizens’ initiative are moving ahead to bring their measure before voters on November’s ballot.

Calling their campaign “Sensible Washington,” backers of Initiative 1068 issued a press release today announcing they’ve cleared the statutory hurdles to set the wording for a marijuana decriminalization measure and plan to soon start gathering signatures to qualify the initiative for this year’s general election.

(Dan Sytman, a spokesman for state Attorney General Rob McKenna, confirmed today the AG’s office issued a ballot title and summary for the initiative on Feb. 10. But Sytman noted the period for any voter to file an appeal of the ballot language doesn’t actually expire until the end of the day tomorrow).

“It’s clear that the Legislature has failed to deal with this issue once again,” the I-1068 press release quotes initiative co-author and Seattle attorney Doug Hiatt, as saying. “We’re in the middle of a severe budget crisis in Olympia and yet the Legislature can’t get it together to stop wasting tens of millions of dollars a year on arresting, prosecuting and jailing regular citizens for marijuana possession. That’s ridiculous.”

(We previously blogged about one of this year’s unsuccessful legislative bills, HB 2401, headed by Seattle Democrat and Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson.)

If I-1068 makes it to the ballot and wins voter approval, it “would remove state civil and criminal penalties for persons eighteen years or older who cultivate, possess, transport, sell, or use marijuana,” according to the measure’s summary. “Restrictions and penalties for persons under eighteen would be retained.”

The measure’s co-authors include Hiatt, a crusading lawyer for medical marijuana issues; Seattle Hempfest founder Vivian McPeak; longtime medical marijuana patient and Cannabis Defense Coalition spokesman Ric Smith; Seattle attorney Jeffrey Steinborn and former Seattle Weekly scribe/mental health issues muckraker Philip Dawdy.

Dawdy told me today that he and Hiatt hatched the idea for the initiative while watching the Rose Bowl this year (While at the Weekly, Dawdy wrote about Hiatt’s legal crusades for medical marijuana patients in this 2006 piece). Now pals, the two were discussing the various then-active legislative bills.  Dawdy said he told Hiatt he doubted that even if any of the proposals made it through the statehouse that former AG-turned-Gov. Chris Gregoire would sign a pot decriminalization bill into law.

“What we really need to do is take this straight to the voters,” Dawdy recalled telling Hiatt. And the all-volunteer initiative campaign was born.

I-1068 supporters will need to collect 241,153 valid signatures by July 2, 2010 to get the measure on the November ballot. But just to be safe, campaigners will aim to deliver more than that — about 320,000 signatures — to the Secretary of State’s office by the deadline, Dawdy said.  He added he doesn’t think signature-gathering will be a problem.

“The polling on (marijuana legalization in Washington) is good,” said Dawdy, noting that recent ACLU and KING TV/SurveyUSA polls have voters easily favoring pot-decriminalization in this state.  “I think we’re grabbing onto this issue at the right place at the right time. There’s a lot of public sentiment for this, both in terms of polling and with people’s enthusiasm. ”

The I-1068 camp plans to hold a press conference tomorrow afternoon in Seattle.

Leave a comment Comments → 9
  1. S_Emerson says:

    During the hearing on the now-dead HB 2401 (Legalizing marijuana), and HB 1177 (Reclassifying possession of forty grams or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a class 2 civil infraction), State Representative Sherry Appleton said:

    “My feeling is that this is the time to challenge the Federal Government, and that we should be doing that, and the only way to do it is to legalize it and see where it goes.”

    [watch the hearing]

    I agree. Let’s make it happen.

  2. smcelhiney says:

    I was going to attend the kickoff for the signature gathering campaign, but I had the munchies…

    Seriously, it’s about time and this could prove to be the method to achieve legalizing (at least at a State level) something that was only criminalized for racist and business reasons.

    Some of the local stories of medical marijuana patients being harassed by police and only having an affirmative defense under specific circumstances are ridiculous… legalize it and tax it like any other product.

    Count me in as one of the people that don’t partake but approve legalization.

  3. bigbarb43 says:

    As a non user of marijuana, I would still sign this initiative. At one time there was a thing called states rights, which those in Washington DC seem to have forgotten. Why should a senator or congressman from Maine or anywhere else dictate to every state what they feel is best.

  4. elmerfudd says:

    This ought to be interesting. While I’ll definitely be signing the petitions and voting yes, I’d expect to see the WOD establishment pull out all the stops in fighting this. By next November, I’m sure horror stories of drugged driving, addiction, prostitution, narco-terrorists and even more heinous crimes will be continually broadcast on TV and radio.

  5. S_Emerson says:

    bigbarb43 and elmerfudd – you’re welcome to swing by Ex-Press Printing to sign the petition:

    Ex-Press Printing Inc.
    1524 Tacoma Avenue S
    Tacoma, WA 98402

    And, if you’d like, you can take a blank petion form with you. Perhaps a few of your friends or family would sign as well. You can even pick up voter’s registration forms to have on hand, for those who need to register, or change their address, etc. (all voter registration info must be correct or else the signature won’t count).

    Also, if you’re on facebook, be sure to become a fan of Sensible Washinton.

    Thanks for your support!

  6. S_Emerson says:

    “WashinGton” :-)

  7. Kevindot1 says:

    I’ll sign this for sure!!!

  8. notsurprised says:

    I guess I would just like to see one good lugitament reason why to legalize the Garbage. And Please dont say Money will be made off of taxing the stuff,thats a joke. People will keep on growing their own, And dont use the old line,well alcohol is legal so why not Pot.. How is Legalizing the drug going to Improve anything,,Let me add , If they legalize Pot, then why not legalize everything else aswell,why stop there.. This just goes to show ya how screwed up people really are nowdays. Ya Ya What a Great message to send to the youger people nowdays, like this Country doesnt have enough problems with Drug Addiction, Its Pretty Sickening Really..

  9. Let hope it passes…get out the vote

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