|Graphic: KOMO 4|
|HB 2401 would have legalized and taxed marijuana in Washington; the herb would be sold in state liquor stores. Since the Legislature dropped the ball, now it’s up to the voters.|
For the first time ever, the Washington Legislature looked at not one, but two bills to reform marijuana laws in the state. And although both were voted down in committee, advocates say marijuana legalization is still alive, with an initiative campaign trying to get a measure on the ballot in November, reports Matt Phelps of the Kirkland Reporter.
“My motivation was to get the criminals out of the business and stop the harm that the current prohibition is doing,” said Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland), who cosponsored House Bill 2401 with Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D-Seattle).
“Many polls in Washington and nationwide show a favorability toward decriminalization,” Goodman said.
HB 2401 would have legalized and regulated marijuana in Washington, but it failed to get out of the House Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness Committee on a 6-2 vote.
|Rep. Roger Goodman: “Some politicians are of the old generation on this”|
”Some politicians are of the old generation on this,” Goodman said. “They don’t understand the purpose of regulating it.”
Goodman’s bill would have put marijuana for sale — with a heavy tax — in state liquor stores.
According to the lawmaker, legalization would make it easier to control marijuana.
“Why wouldn’t you want to get criminals out of business?” asked Goodman.
House Bill 1177 would have reduced penalties for marijuana possession to a fine similar to a traffic ticket, known as “decriminalization.” It was also voted down in committee, 5-3.
Goodman said that legalizing marijuana could raise as much as $300 million a year for the state.
The issue of legalizing and regulating marijuana in Washington remains alive with the Sensible Washington initiative, which needs more than 241,000 signatures to be on the ballot in November.
“It will be very easy to get those signatures,” Goodman said.
|Photo: Douglas Hiatt|
|Activist/attorney Douglas Hiatt: “Volunteers are lining up”|
Douglas Hiatt, a Seattle lawyer and marijuana activist who is sponsoring the legalization initiative, said volunteers are lining up to collect signatures.
Former state representative Toby Nixon, now a commissioner for King County Fire Protection District 41, is one Republican who supports legalization.
“I think it is unfortunate that the state legislature is so clearly behind the opinion of the state,” Nixon said. “Most people I talk to share my opinion.”
“Very few people I talk to, including strong conservatives, tell me I am flat out wrong,” Nixon said. “I think people understand it is a better way to control the problem. But the initiative that is circulating will show us exactly how people feel.”
A recent poll on the Kirkland Reporter website showed more than 70 percent of respondents favoring the legalization of pot.