|Photo: Emerald Sun|
The people of Washington state want to legalize marijuana — and they would vote to do exactly that — if it were only on the ballot, according to the latest polls. But they may not get that chance.
Even though poll numbers show a majority of residents support it, an attempt to legalize marijuana in Washington state for adults may not make the ballot in November, as the signature gathering phase enters its final three weeks.
Initiative 1068 would remove all state penalties for the possession, cultivation, use and sale of marijuana. Statewide polls have suggested it would pass, reports Gene Johnson of The Associated Press.
According to campaign chairman Douglas Hiatt on Monday, more than 100,000 people have signed a petition to get the initiative on the ballot. The group’s goal is to gather 320,000 signatures. It needs 241,153 valid signatures by July 2 to qualify for the ballot.
The cash-strapped I-1068 campaign can’t afford to pay signature gatherers, so it has depended entirely on the efforts of volunteers.
|Jeff Steinborn: “If we get some more volunteers, we can legalize marijuana in Washington State”|
”If we get some more volunteers, we can legalize marijuana in Washington State,” said Jeffrey Steinborn, an initiative co-author and Seattle-based attorney who has defended marijuana users for 30 years.
The I-1068 campaign said it already has 1,800 volunteers.
Anticipated support from the state’s liberal political establishment has failed to materialize.
Organizers had counted on support from the Service Employees International Union, a major force in liberal politics.
But on Monday, the SEIU said it wouldn’t support the measure.
“It’s really unfortunate, but you cannot do this without money,” Hiatt said. “I never intended I-1068 to be an all-volunteer effort. We’ll make a decision in a couple days about whether we’re going forward.”
The state Democratic Party and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington also declined to support the effort.
“There’s a lot of support for this within the party, but it’s just not a high priority,” said Dwight Pelz, state Democratic Party chairman, on Monday.
|Photo: The Stranger|
|Philip Dawdy, I-1068: “We’re going to fight for the people of this state until the end”|
”It’s disappointing that SEIU and others have walked away from us, but this campaign will fight on because the issue is simply too important,” said Philip Dawdy, I-1068 campaign director.
The ACLU-WA said that it supports marijuana legalization, but thinks legalizing without providing a regulatory framework governing cultivation and distribution, as would I-1068, is “irresponsible.”
“The armchair liberals at the ACLU have decided that marijuana shouldn’t be legalized this year,” Steinborn said. “If they’d given us a neutral response, we could’ve raised the funds to get this on the ballot, but they didn’t.”
Dawdy said he’s especially frustrated that the SEIU and others walked away from I-1068 after “romancing it for a month” because Sensible Washington, sponsors of I-1068, originally approached the state Democratic Party and others in progressive politics back in February, asking for advice and guidance on running a successful initiative campaign.
According to Dawdy, Sensible Washington was told that various political power brokers in the state felt marijuana legalization was a “fringe issue” and that people were nervous about being tied to such a cause.
“It’s 2010 and we’re still facing the old-fashioned, outdated stigma around marijuana,” Dawdy said. “Voters are five to ten years ahead of the Legislature and the powers-that-be on marijuana law reform. We have a little over three weeks to go and now is the perfect time for the citizens of this state to register their discontent with this state’s marijuana laws and this state’s politics by signing I-1068.”
“We’re going to fight for the people of this state until the end,” Dawdy said.