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Tacoma: Cannabis measure qualifies for November ballot

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on July 6, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
July 6, 2011 5:45 pm

A proposed initiative that seeks to minimize enforcement of marijuana-related offenses in Tacoma has qualified for the city’s November ballot.

Tacoma Initiative No. 1 today surpassed the required goal of 3,858 valid signatures from registered city voters,  the Pierce County Auditor’s office confirmed.

“The petition was determined to be sufficient with a total of 3,934 valid signatures verified,” Pierce County Elections Manager Michael Rooney wrote in an official letter of verification to City Clerk Doris Sorum.

But even while celebrating the measure’s qualification for the ballot,  campaign supporters say they hope the issue won’t have to go before voters.  Supporters can request the Tacoma City Council to step in to consider enacting the measure into city law before then.

“We intend to ask,” said Sherry Bockwinkel, a campaign volunteer.

The council has until August 16 — the deadline to place an issue on the Nov. 8 general election ballot — to take up the issue.

“If they reject, or take no action, then it will move to the ballot and become an issue for Tacoma voters,” Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson said in an email today.

Modeled after a 2003 Seattle law, Initiative No. 1 is aimed at making cannabis-related offenses “the lowest enforcement priority of the City of Tacoma.”

To qualify the measure for the November ballot, supporters had to submit 3,858 valid signatures by Friday.  The number of signatures is “equal to 10 percent of the votes cast in the last mayoral election” — the requirement for qualifying citizen initiatives under the city’s charter.

In all, campaign supporters submitted 702 pages of petitions, each containing space for 20 signatures.  Some 5,000 signatures were challenged for various reasons –mostly because they came from those who weren’t registered to vote or lived outside of Tacoma. Still, supporters had more than enough valid signatures to qualify the measure.

“It was not necessary to check all petition pages submitted,” Rooney noted.

Campaign supporters and other activists pushed the measure forward,  as the city has postponed deciding the fate for about 30 medical marijuana dispensaries that face losing their city business licenses.

The city issued those license revocations during a recent crackdown on pot dispensaries. But city officials have since held off on hearing appeals cases in hopes the legislature would clarify the state’s medical marijuana law.

Instead, the new law that came out of Olympia this year leaves the issue of how to regulate pot dispensaries up to local jurisdictions to determine.

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