Replacing criminal sanctions for marijuana with a $100 civil fine is among the ideas up for discussion as the Washington Legislature begins its 60-day session Monday.
Travel show host Rick Steves and Washington lawmakers including Democratic State Rep. Brendan Williams of Olympia will take part in a panel discussion on the need to change state marijuana laws at 6:30 Tuesday evening in Olympia, reports Brad Shannon of The Olympian.
State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and State Rep. Mary Helen Roberts are also on the panel, which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) organized at the Capitol Theater.
The 30-minute informational video, “Marijuana: It’s Time For A Conversation,” hosted by Steves, will also be shown, according to the ACLU.
The three lawmakers are sponsors of two bills to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults, making it a civil infraction subject to a $100 fine that could be paid by mail, like a traffic ticket. This would save an estimated $16 million in court and jail costs and raise about $1 million per year, according to the legislators.
The proposal is a key priority for the ACLU, which says half of all drug arrests in 2008 were for marijuana possession. According to the group, marijuana possession resulted in more than 11,500 arrests in Washington alone in 2007.
The decrim bills are Senate Bill 5615, sponsored by Kohl-Welles, and House Bill 1177, co-sponsored by Williams and Roberts. Roberts is also co-sponsor of HB 2401, which would legalize and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.
Doors open at 6 p.m. and admission is free for the event.