Washington voters may decide next year whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use, in what could be a multi-state effort: A legalization campaign is also close to reaching the Colorado ballot.
Initiative 502 in Washington has drawn not only prominent local supporters from politics and law enforcement, but also money from backers with a national reach, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Drug Policy Action and Ohio billionaire Peter Lewis, the chairman of Progressive Insurance who has contributed $250,000 to the Washington campaign.
The campaign says it has the signatures of 355,000 supporters, and dropped off most of its petitions today at the state elections office. Here’s this morning’s AP story by Rachel La Corte.
At least 241,153 signatures are needed to qualify I-502 for the statewide ballot. The Legislature would get first crack at approving it, which is not likely to happen, as the main state lawmaker backing the measure acknowledges. Then it would go to the voters in November 2012.
Supporters say voters are ready for a system of state-licensed stores that sell marijuana to adults 21 and older.
But the measure has reopened a schism within the ranks of marijuana advocates, and demonstrators protested outside the elections office today. They included medical-marijuana patients who said they would lose their right to drive under the measure’s tough standards for driving while impaired.
UPDATE 5 p.m.: Secretary of State Sam Reed‘s office says supporters estimated their delivery at 341,000 signatures (and because no one can avoid puns when writing about this subject, the office says it’s “much more than a token effort.”) The campaign plans to bring in 10,000 more signatures on Friday, the last day possible, Reed’s office says.