Washington: New Marijuana Legalization Drive In February


Photo: Sensible Washington
New cannabis legalization petitions should start circulating in February 2011 in Washington state.

By William Budz, Guest Author
While a marijuana decriminalization initiative does not appear on the 2010 Washington state ballot, issue supporters say 2011 is a whole new bag. The Sensible Washington campaign plans to file its new initiative, which was recently endorsed by NORML, in January 2011 and circulate it in February.
Many pro-cannabis voters were disheartened earlier this year when they heard that I-1068, an initiative that would have removed state civil and criminal penalties for persons 18 years or older who cultivate, possess, transport, sell, or use marijuana, had failed to generate enough signatures to make it onto the 2010 ballot.
Philip Dawdy, vice-chair of Sensible Washington, the organization which backed I-1068, said while the campaign anticipated that money and volunteers would be challenges, they never expected to have to battle Mother Nature.
“It was the weather that was truly our biggest obstacle,” Dawdy said. “We had a very wet May and June (the months when most signatures get gathered by any campaign) and it became a struggle to turn out signature gatherers in tough weather.”

Dawdy said the campaign collected 200,000 signatures on $40,000, which is “virtually unheard of performance.” However it was still shy of the 241,153 necessary to make the ballot.
“If we’d had $50,000 more, we would have wound up on the ballot,” he said.

Graphic: Sensible Washington

​Dawdy said he was surprised to find that marijuana legalization was not as mainstream an issue as he had previously thought, but feels the work Sensible Washington did this year has helped to fix that.
“Now, you’ve got major TV news stations doing positive stories on marijuana during the 5 p.m. hour,” he said.
Dawdy said confidently that 2010 was merely prelude to Sensible Washington’s 2011 effort to rally voters to their cause.

Photo: The Stranger
Philip Dawdy, Sensible Washington

​”We have 6,500-plus people in our system now–triple where were at a few months ago,” Dawdy said. “We’ll be even larger by next spring and they are very fired up to get going. We’re better organized and hopefully we’ll be better funded. But you are going to see the same kind of grassroots enthusiasm you saw this year.”
If the “peaceful protest” at the Oct. 19 Tacoma City Council meeting, where council members voted to allow eight Tacoma dispensaries to continue operation, is any indication of Sensible Washington’s influence on the pro-pot community, voters may have a say after all.
The campaign printed “Call To Action” flyers and encouraged voters to come “fight for their rights.” More than 300 people showed up to do just that.
“I think such actions (as the City Council vote) build public sympathy for legalization efforts because, regardless of whether the context is medical or recreational, it’s obvious to most people that our marijuana laws in Washington state are hopelessly out of touch with social reality,” he said.
We can only hope that the sun will shine on their efforts.