Washington Marijuana Legalization Measure Likely Headed For 2012 Ballot

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By Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town

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Sponsors of a ballot initiative which would legalize marijuana in Washington state say they have enough signatures -- more than 355,000 -- to make the ballot in November 2012.

New Approach Washington, sponsors of Initiative 502, said they have made plans to bring in petitions on 10 a.m. on December 29 at the state Elections Division office at 520 Union Sreet near the State Capitol in Olympia, reports David Ammons at From Our Corner, the Washington Secretary of State's website.

I-502 would authorize the state Liquor Control Board to regulate and tax cannabis for those 21 and older. Licensed production, limited possession, delivery, distribution and sale of marijuana in accordance with the provisions of the law would be allowed.

Unfortunately, the initiative would allow the legal possession of only one ounce of dried cannabis, and home growing would be prohibited. Amounts in excess of 1.5 ounces could result in a felony charge, as could any attempt to grow your own. State-licensed stores would be the only legal sources for marijuana under the scheme.

Equally unfortunately, in a bid for middle-of-the-road support, initiative sponsors also included language which would make active THC levels of five nanograms per milliliter (5 ng/ml) and above per se proof of DUI marijuana, subjecting many medical marijuana patients to arrest even when unimpaired.

Sponsors of I-502 say it would generate at least $215 million a year in tax revenue, about $80 million for the Washington state treasury and the rest for research, health care, and other purposes.

To be certified for the ballot, I-502 must have 241,153 valid signatures of registered Washington voters. The Elections Division recommends turning it at least 320,000 to cover duplicate or invalid signatures.

If certified -- as appears likely with 355,000 signatures -- the measure will go to the upcoming regular session of the Washington Legislature, which will have three options: (1) Pass it into law; (2) Ignore it or vote it down, either of which would send it onto the November 2012 statewide ballot; or (3) send it plus a "legislative alternative" to the ballot.

Sponsors of I-502 include former U.S. Attorney John McKay, who prosecuted Canadian "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery, travel host Rick Steves, New Approach Washington, which is basically a subsidiary of the Washington chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and others.

Washington voters legalized medical marijuana back in 1998. Patients are allowed to cultivate up to 15 plants and possess up to 24 ounces of dried medicine. Those limits wouldn't be affected by the passage of I-502.

Article From Toke of the Town and republished with special permission.

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