Legalize marijuana in Washington state
The Seattle Times editorial board supports the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana for Washington state adults.
MARIJUANA should be legalized, regulated, taxed and made available for sale to adults. Prohibition has failed. It fuels criminal gangs. It fills the prisons in America and graveyards in Mexico.
To end marijuana prohibition at the federal level, several states need to defy federal authority. That is how the politics works. The Legislature will not do it, nor will Gov. Chris Gregoire. But the people of Washington can, through a ballot initiative.
On Wednesday, a group called New Approach Washington filed a statewide ballot initiative that legalizes the growing, processing and sale of marijuana in regulated private stores to adults over 21. It decriminalizes possession of up to 1 ounce of dried smoking material, 16 ounces of cannabis-infused foods and 72 ounces of liquids.
It is not the first such initiative. Initiative 1149, which is a simple repeal of all marijuana laws for those older than 18, has been collecting signatures. But its backers have little money, too few signatures and are almost out of time.
The new effort, a more moderate one, has some big names behind it, including Pete Holmes, Seattle city attorney, and John McKay, former U.S. attorney. It is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington. What's more, the new effort looks as if it will have enough money to collect the 241,000 valid signatures needed by Dec. 31.
The new effort is an initiative to the Legislature, which gives that body a chance to enact it or put it on the November 2012 ballot, either by itself or with the Legislature's bill. In no case would the governor's signature be needed.
By passing such a measure, the people would be defying the federal government. They would be inviting their politicians — particularly their two senators, and the governor they elect in 2012 — to stand with them.
The actual bill they pass might well be struck down by a federal court. The crucial thing is the voters' political statement — here, and in a few other states, perhaps Oregon, California or Colorado.
That statement — for legalization, regulation and taxation — is one we support.