By Phillip Smith
The Washington secretary of state's office announced Friday that an initiative to legalize, license, and regulate marijuana has been certified for the November ballot. Washington is the first state this year to have a marijuana measure qualify for the ballot.
The measure, Initiative 502, would legalize marijuana for adults and regulate and tax it much like liquor. I-502 is sponsored by New Approach Washington, which has garnered an impressive list of sponsors and endorsements.
But not everybody in the Washington marijuana community is happy with it. Sensible Washington, which has twice tried unsuccessfully to get its own initiative on the ballot, is critical of I-502, and so are some elements of the medical marijuana community.
Friday's announcement came after the State Elections Division, using a random sample, determined that sponsors had nearly 278,000 valid signatures, easily enough to cover the minimum 241,153 required. The initiative campaign had turned in 354,608 signatures.
The initiative now goes to the state legislature, which can pass it, reject it, or ignore it. If the legislature rejects or ignores it, it then goes to the voters in November.
At least one state will have a chance to legalize marijuana this year, and it could soon be two. In Colorado, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has turned in nearly double the number of signatures needed for its initiative to make the ballot and is awaiting certification from state officials.
Marijuana legalization initiative signature-gathering campaigns are also currently underway in California, Michigan, Missouri, and Oregon.