Washington State Bar Association Board Solidly Backs Marijuana Decrim


Photo: Joe Mabel
A massive representation of a joint in a “rolling paper” evoking the American flag, 2008 Summer Solstice Parade, Fremont Fair, Seattle, WA.

​Marijuana decriminalization in Washington state just won some important allies.

This morning, the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) Board of Governors (BOG) voted to support the decrim bill, SB 5615, in the upcoming session of the Legislature.
The BOG voted 9 in favor, 0 opposed, and 2 abstaining to support the bill, Alison Holcomb, drug policy director at the ACLU of Washington, has told Toke of the Town.

The ringing endorsement of marijuana decrim comes on the heels of a call to action this month by WSBA President Salvador A. Mungia: “The WSBA: Leader, Follower, or Bystander?” In the piece, published on the Bar Association’s website, Mungia pointed out that decriminalizing pot makes good fiscal sense.

“Save $2.3 million in muncipal court costs. Add an additional $2.19 million in county court savings. How about $4.5 million in prosecution costs and another $5 million in savings in defense costs?

“That, and a little more, is how much Senate Bill 5615 would produce in savings — approximately $16 million overall… In addition, if passed, SB 5615 would raise approximately $1 million, with close to $600,000 being made available for drug treatment and prevention programs. Should the Legislature pass it? Should a drowning man reach out for a life ring?”

The bill in question would reclassify possession of 40 grams (a little less than 1.5 ounces) from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction.
So why are the chances of its passage deemed a long shot? Why was it allowed to wither on the vine in the last session of the Legislature? Because there is apparently a certain lack of will to get behind the bill on the part of some leaders in the Legislature, notably powerful House Speaker Frank Chopp, as reported at Reality Catcher.
Behind that lack of will is the inaccurate perception that the people of Washington just aren’t ready to stop arresting their fellow citizens for marijuana. Politicians fear that any vote that could be seen as “pro-marijuana” will come back to bite them on the ass in the next election.
But the good citizens of Washington know that the marijuana laws just aren’t working, either as a deterrent to use or as sane public policy.

Mungia: “If we break the trail, it will make it easier for others to follow”

​”The bill addresses a matter of how we, the citizens of this state, use our limited resources,” Mungia writes. “That answer doesn’t depend on whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, liberal or conservative, or reside west or east of the mountains. Instead, the issue is whether we want to spend $16 million of our limited resources without seeing a return for that money.”
The great leadership shown by Mungia in his willingness to take a stand deserves a lot of credit. It’s undoubtedly a big reason for this great show of support by the WSBA.
“If we break the trail, take the lead, it will make it easier for others to follow,” Mungia said. “And, trust me, they will follow.”