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Sensible Washington’s Initiative 1149 Is the Best Foot Forward for Sensible Marijuana Policies

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Sensible Washington’s Initiative 1149 Is the Best Foot Forward for Sensible Marijuana Policies

MAY 4, 2011


CONTACT: Douglas Hiatt: 206-412-8807; Jeffrey Steinborn: 206-622-5117

Last week, Governor Gregoire dealt a huge blow to tens of thousands of Washington’s most vulnerable citizens. By partially vetoing the proposed medical marijuana bill, the governor shut down a slowly emerging industry that was providing safe access to medicine for cancer and AIDS patients, multiple sclerosis sufferers, and those dealing with severe pain. As a result, criminal gangs are now poised to reclaim the market, bringing more violence to our streets, greater dangers to our children, and making it unnecessarily difficult for the sick and terminally ill to get the medicine that their doctors authorize. The governor’s stated reason for leaving us in this mess was that she feared the federal government’s response.

Fifty years ago, the Civil Rights Movement saw the federal government use its power to overturn injustices being carried out by the states. Today, the fight for sane and sensible marijuana laws has turned that dynamic on its head. The states are now struggling to overturn injustices being carried out by the federal government. The voters of this state have repeatedly made it clear that we expect to be able to establish our own rules concerning the use of marijuana as medicine. Sensible Washington is taking that effort to the next level with I-1149, which instructs the state Legislature to stand up to the federal government’s entire War on Marijuana by enacting sensible regulations that finally allow for enforceable age restrictions and the removal of criminal elements from its production and sale. Whether we’re talking about medicinal use or recreational use, well-regulated markets that only sell to adults are always safer for our communities than black markets that sell to people of any age.

The history of Washington’s medical marijuana law has seen the same pattern occur time and again. Every time well-intentioned reformers try to work with the Legislature to gain better protections for the citizens of Washington, special interest groups come in, throw their weight around, and leave things in even worse shape than before. I-1149 makes this outcome impossible – by passing into law the necessary baseline for effective reform – the removal of criminal sanctions for any consensual adult activity – and then instructs the Legislature to regulate the trade.

The most effective aspect of this approach is that the federal government has no ability to overturn it. While the federal government can pre-empt regulations, they cannot force a state to enact criminal sanctions. Therefore, I-1149 leaves the federal government with only two options: force Washington to have a legal and unregulated marijuana market – or honor the will of our voters and allow our Legislature to regulate the market. Not even the federal government would be irresponsible enough to choose the former. This approach is similar to how the states eventually brought about the end of alcohol prohibition in the early 1930s.

Sensible Washington has roughly 1,000 volunteer signature gatherers working all over the state to get I-1149 on the ballot, but even that’s no guarantee that we’ll succeed in getting the 241,000 signatures we need. Paid signature gatherers can ensure that we make the ballot. If you care about implementing effective marijuana reform in Washington State, please donate your money, your skills, or your time.

Thank you!


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