"It's an idea whose time has come," said Douglas Hiatt, co-author of Initiative 1068, which would legalize marijuana in Washington State.
And now it's time for voters to take matters into their own hands, according to Hiatt. "This year, one in six legislators sponsored marijuana reform legislation," the activist attorney said Tuesday at a press conference on the steps of the Capitol Building in Olympia.
"And again this year, major reform did not get out of committee," Hiatt said. "So we formed Sensible Washington and wrote an initiative that removes the criminal and civil penalties for adults."
Every poll taken shows that if I-1068 gets on the ballot, it will win. Washington voters support sensible marijuana laws.
Tuesday's press conference detailed a wide and diverse array of endorsements, from former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper to Republican legislator Toby Nixon.
Six bills were introduced in Washington this legislative session regarding marijuana legalization, decriminalization, and strengthening medical marijuana provisions.
The legalization bill, HB 2401, had a fiscal note prepared by the Office of Financial Management detailing millions in prosecution costs, not including local police enforcement. The same fiscal note suggested revenue of $300 million would be created by legalizing and taxing cannabis.
Nationally, the Obama Administration, through Attorney General Eric Holder, has told federal prosecutors to stand down on medical marijuana "because we don't want a war on our citizens."
According to Sensible Washington, ending marijuana prohibition is comparable to ending the prohibition on alcohol. Washington was the 25th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, on Oct. 3, 1933.
Seventy-seven years later, we've had four Presidents who admitted marijuana use, along with dozens of Olympic athletes, thousands of artists, and millions of ordinary people -- all of whom are considered criminals under current law.
"It's time to change the law," Hiatt said.
An Angus Reid poll conducted Dec. 3-4 showed that 68 percent of Americans believe the "War On Drugs" is a failure. Nationally, 53 percent support legalization.
In Washington, Survey USA's poll for KING-TV showed support for marijuana legalization is even stronger: 56 percent of respondents said legalizing cannabis is a good idea. Outside Seattle, there is strong support even in Eastern Washington, traditionally considered the "conservative" end of the state, with a majority, 52 percent, supporting pot legalization.
"Washington citizens have embraced common-sense, pragmatic reform, time and again," said Sensible Washington's Cindi Laws, "leading an unwilling government in numerous progressive reforms, from public power to public disclosure of campaign finance, increases in the minimum wage, reduction in toxics and nuclear waste, to legalization of abortion, medical marijuana, and the control of one's own death."
Volunteers are gathering signatures to qualify for November's ballot. The magnitude of the effort is huge. A single volunteer signature gatherer can get about 20 signatures an hour, on a good day, on an issue with broad public support.
Marijuana legalization has that broad support, but to gather the 300,000 or so signatures required to qualify for the ballot takes many hours, much coordination, and plenty of help. Campaign support and coordination of volunteers takes money.
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