Maybe this time it’ll stick . . .
The group New Approach Washington announced the filing of an initiative to the legislature to legalize and regulate the production and sale of marijuana. The initiative’s sponsors include Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, former federal district attorney John McKay, and ACLU-WA’s Alison Holcomb, as well as experts in medicine, drug treatment and prevention, law and business. The initiative calls for Washington to treat marijuana essentially the way we currently treat hard alcohol – with clear distribution and use restrictions – and will earmark a portion of the state’s revenues for drug education and prevention programs. The group is united in the belief that Washington should neither treat the adult use of marijuana as a crime nor promote its unrestricted use.
The ACLU of Washington is in full support of New Approach Washington. They argue our current marijuana laws are ineffective, unreasonable and unfairly enforced. The initiative addresses many issues at the heart of the ACLU’s work: racial justice, overreaching government, privacy, and over-incarceration. The ACLU-WA is providing strategic support to New Approach Washington, and, as an in-kind donation, our Drug Policy Director Alison Holcomb is serving as campaign director.
Under the initiative, marijuana that is grown by licensed Washington facilities and sold through licensed stores will be made legal for people age 21 and over. Clear restrictions, age-limits, regulations and taxing are established – measures that will increase safety, undercut the black market and provide state and local tax revenue. In addition, the laws that allow authorized patients and providers to grow medical marijuana will continue in place. The initiative is the most comprehensive and carefully drawn of any marijuana legalization initiative. It is likely to become a national model for other state marijuana law reform, which is a prerequisite for change at the federal level.
My opinion? The time has come for marijuana legalization. It is widely accepted that the War on Drugs has been an utter failure, and has caused far more harm than good. It is time for Washington to address this reality and to take a new approach.