Marijuana legalization

This November, Washington joins Oregon and Colorado in having an initiative up for vote regarding cannabis legalization and regulation. Washington’s Initiative 502 would legalize possession of up to an ounce of cannabis by those 21 and older, as well as 16 ounces of cannabis-infused products, and 72 ounces of cannabis infused products in liquid form. It would also allow distribution and cultivation licenses to be obtained, as well as introduce a new method of testing for active cannabinoids (as opposed to inactive cannabinoids, which remain in the bloodstream for weeks) during DUI stops. The initiative also introduces heavy taxes on cultivators, distributors, and purchasers of cannabis, which are projected to earn close to $2 billion in revenue over a 5 year period.

The initiative is currently polling at a 57 percent approval rate according to the Seattle Times, and has been endorsed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Seattle’s mayor and city council.

The initiative also has many opponents, including Governor Christine Gregoire who fears a statewide DEA crackdown on cannabis use if the initiative were to go into effect. Gregoire is joined in her opposition by both Republican and Democrat candidates for governor. The bill’s most outspoken critics have been Washington’s medical cannabis dispensaries, who have cited the bill’s lack of a provision for personal-use cultivation and DUI laws as its primary failings. This criticism has itself been criticized by the Seattle Times and the Stranger, who have accused Washington’s dispensaries of attempting to maintain a monopoly on legal cannabis distribution.

With potentially wide-reaching implications for the future of cannabis prohibition if it passes, should Washington pass Initiative 502 and legalize cannabis possession and distribution?