I-502 signatures on the way for marijuana legalization

The OlympianDecember 20, 2011 

State elections officials say backers of a measure to legalize marijuana and tax it in Washington plan to turn in signatures for their initiative to the Legislature next week. If Initiative 502 has sufficient signatures to qualify for the November 2012 ballot, it goes first to the Legislature. Legislators could either approve it, let it go to the ballot, or approve a rival measure that also would go to state voters next year.

I-502 is sponsored by the likes of John McKay, a Republican and former U.S. attorney in Seattle under President Bush as well as travel guide Rick Steves and others. Go here for the measure’s full text. A list of other initiatives to the Legislature is here.

A marijuana legalization measure would put the state crosswise with federal law. And Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed a medical marijuana law in April on grounds that kind of regulation would open the workers up to federal prosecution.

David Ammons of the Office of the Secretary of State said in an email to reporters:

FYI: Backers of a marijuana initiative plan to bring in petitions on Dec. 29 at 10 a.m. at the state Elections Division office at 520 Union St. near the state Capitol in Olympia. Initiative to the Legislature 502 would authorize the state liquor control Board to regulate and tax marijuana for those 21 and older. Production, possession, delivery, distribution and sale of marijuana in accordance with the provisions of the new law would be decriminalized. Sponsors say it would generate at least $215 million a year in tax revenue, roughly $80 million for the state treasury and the rest for research, health care, and related purposes.

Their statement says “We are united in the belief that Washington should stop wasting law enforcement resources on adults who use marijuana, and instead create a tightly regulated system that generates tax revenue for our state and local governments.”

It takes 241,153 valid signatures of registered Washington voters to be certified, although the Elections Division recommends at least 320,000, to cover duplicate or invalid signatures. If certified, the measure would go to the upcoming regular session of the Legislature, which would have three options: Pass it into law; ignore it or vote it down, sending it to fall, 2012, statewide ballot; or send it and a legislative alternative to the ballot.

In South Sound, Ron Lawson of the Lacey City Council has been a vocal supporter of marijuana legalization and has disclosed his use of marijuana to treat a medical condition.

UPDATE clarifies that it is John McKay.

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