Marijuana supporters protest legalization initiative

I-502 protest at State Capitol. Photo by Wiley Book.

More than 40 protesters opposing Washington’s latest attempt at marijuana legalization, Initiative 502 (I-502), took shelter from the pouring rain at the doorstep of the legislative building.

The Oct. 16 protest was organized by Sarena Haskins, a local personal trainer, mother of two, and an owner of the Sonshine Organics Network, a medical marijuana dispensary.

Haskins strongly opposes I-502 and considers it a “bad plan.”

“Failed plans become failed systems,” she said during a speech to the crowd.

According to Haskins she faced the pouring rain to protest for “the future of our state, the future of our county.”

This took place just days after protesters interrupted a pro-I-502 rally just inside the doors of the legislative building. During the rally State Representative Sam Hunt got into a scuffle with one of the protesters.

While protesters claimed Hunt choked and assaulted a protester, Hunt claimed he had been hit by a man’s elbow and simply shoved the man out of his way.

Haskins agreed with other protesters that Hunt had assaulted a protester. Haskins was among several protesters
removed from the legislative building by Washington State Patrol officers.

Bailey Hirschburg, an I-502 organizer, commented on facebook on a picture of Haskins being led away by two officers. Hirschburg claimed Haskins had been removed after trying to take his “Yes on I-502” sign out of his hand.

At the time of this writing, no formal charges have been filed.

The “No on I-502” protest was relatively peaceful.

Haskins gave several speeches over the course of the hour-long protest. She discussed her experience raising children, and her concern for how the initiative’s “zero tolerance policy” would affect those under 21.

She also said she worried about the initiative’s lack of clarification on the legality of dispensaries and collectives.

Another speaker, Jared Allaway, was a state coordinator for last year’s Initiative 1149 which sought to remove marijuana from the state’s list of controlled substances.

Allaway, according to a protester is, “one active activist.”

Wearing a red shirt with the phrase “marijuana is safer than alcohol,” Allaway said he and other protesters “support legalization, just not 502’s version.”

He said many protesters present had worked in the past to gather signatures for cannabis legalization petitions, and he believed they would work with other laws as well, but pointed to I-502’s altered DUI law as a big reason for their opposition.

“The petitions we worked on before just got rid of the penalties, which is the same way they got rid of prohibition,” he said.

Allaway had opposed I-502 turning control of cannabis growing over to the liquor control board, which he said will only issue 100 licenses. “There will be more than 100 people who will want to grow if it becomes legal to possess an ounce [of cannabis].”

Allaway said the initiative he is currently collecting signatures for, Initiative 514, would be a much better alternative.

It would legalize possession and distribution of marijuana by those 21 and older, and would reduce penalties for those under 21 for possessing marijuana by altering felony-amounts of marijuana from 40 grams to 24 ounces.

South Puget Sound Community College student, Cody Browne, said he approves I-502. “I believe that it will create cash flow for our economy, help stop some petty arrests, and really help those who use it for illnesses or conditions that other medicine can’t help relieve.”

SPSCC Special Programming Coordinator for Campus Activities Board, Nhan Hoang, said he feels Vietnam’s legalization of marijuana has negatively impacted his country.

Hoang said he believes people should use marijuana for medicinal purposes only. People who use it recreationally “can’t control themselves,” said Hoang.

Student Lauren Heryford said she has “mixed feelings” over I-502. If the initiative did pass, local small dispensaries would go out of business which Heryford said she doesn’t want. “[Yet,] I don’t approve of recreational marijuana [use] and passing the law will help stop that,” she said.

“It will be more expensive because of the taxes so people might think twice about getting it,” she said.
However, Haskins said, “I’m concerned about the taxes, I’m concerned about the DUIs; I’m concerned about the no protection for minors, and as a mom I’m really here to speak for the youth, but also as a business owner.”