Washington state's Initiative 502, which would legalize and tax marijuana and sell the herb through state-licensed stores, got a big funding boost over the weekend, receiving $1.25 million in new donations. The funds allowed I-502's backers to buy a $1 million TV advertising blitz in August, according to campaign manager Alison Holcomb.
Meanwhile, a new statewide poll, paid for by Seattle TV station KING 5, found that a healthy 55 percent of Washington voters support I-502 ,with just 32 percent opposed.
The first marijuana legalization initiative to ever make the state ballot in Washington, I-502 raised the $1.25 million from just four deep-pocketed donors, including matching $450,000 contributions from Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis -- well-known for his financial support for drug policy reform -- and from the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), reports Jonathan Martin at The Seattle Times.
The measure, which will be on November's general election ballot, would legalize possession and sale of up to one ounce of marijuana. It would place a steep excise tax on marijuana and cannabis-infused products at newly created state-licensed marijuana stores, and would allow a few government-regulated pot farms.
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|Billionaire Peter Lewis over the weekend gave $450,000 more to the I-502 campaign, part of $1.25 million in new contributions the effort received over the weekend|
Before the weekend's contributions, I-502 had raised a total of $1.7 million since the beginning of the campaign.
Holcomb said the new donations, which will be officially reported by the campaign next week, included $250,000 from travel writer/TV personality Rick Steves, who had already given $100,000, and $100,000 from the ACLU of Washington, which is the group behind New Approach Washington, the sponsors of I-502.
A number of Washington state marijuana legalization advocates, along with some in the medical marijuana industry, oppose I-502, primarily because it includes a new DUI limit of five nanograms per milliliter (5 ng/ml) on active THC in the bloodstream. Advocates argue that such a low -- and scientifically unsupported -- limit would effectively criminalize all driving by medical marijuana patients.
Advocates also complain that I-502's possession limit of just one legal ounce is too low, calling it "decrim on steroids," and object to the measure's ban on all home cultivation of cannabis.
"I-502 will NOT legalize marijuana," said prominent Seattle-based medical marijuana activist Steve Sarich of CannaCare. "It doesn't remove ONE criminal penalty for growing or possessing marijuana from the state law....none...zero.
"This is a scam being played on the public by some big money people from outside Washington State who think we're all stupid enough to buy off on their scam," Sarich said. "I-502 adds criminal penalties to the state law -- and it doesn't remove the existing ones. Still these people have the nerve to call it 'legalization.' Please don't be fooled by this new form of prohibition!"
A new group opposed to I-502, the Safe Access Alliance, will file with state campaign authorities this week, according to cannabis activist Philip Dawdy, who has been involved with past legalization efforts in Washington.
"I-502 made a serious miscalculation," Dawdy told The Seattle Times. "They calculated that getting the votes of soccer moms were more important than medical marijuana patients."
According to Dawdy, the excise taxes imposed by I-502 would dramatically increase costs on medical marijuana patients.