|Graphic: Cafe Press|
A bill has once again been introduced to the Washington Legislature which would legalize marijuana and allow it to be sold in state liquor stores.
State Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson of Seattle, who compared current cannabis laws to alcohol Prohibition, introduced the bill, reports The Associated Press. According to Dickerson, it’s time to take marijuana out of the hands of criminals, regulate it, and tax it like alcohol.
Dickerson introduced a similar bill last year, but never made it out of committee when the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee, after holding the first-ever legislative hearing on marijuana legalization in Washington, voted it down.
The bill also calls for the state to license marijuana growers.
Critics, of course, claim the bill would “increase marijuana use among teens,” as if they don’t already smoke it, and “could lead to harder drug use,” which is, of course, the already-discredited Gateway Theory.
Predictably, Attorney General Rob McKenna’s office, notorious for fighting marijuana reform, lost no time in saying it will oppose the bill.
|Photo: Washington State Wire|
|Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson: It’s time to take marijuana out of the hands of criminals, regulate it, and tax it like alcohol|
When Dickerson introduced a legalization bill last year, she said she didn’t expect it to pass. “I’m happy to start the conversation,” she told Seattle political site PubliCola. “If more states start talking about [legalizing marijuana]it will get the attention of Congress.”
Dickerson wants pot to be grown by Washington farmers and sold in state liquor stores. Revenue from marijuana sales would pay for drug and alcohol treatment programs.
Cannabis revenues would probably be comparable to those from alcohol, according to Dickerson, which are about $330 million yearly in Washington.
“This bill is a wonderful step forward for health, human rights, and social justice,” marijuana researcher Dr. Sunil Aggarwal of Seattle told Toke of the Town when Dickerson first introduced the bill in last year’s legislative session.
“No one should be criminalized for using marijuana, when far more dangerous drugs such as malt liquor are legally consumed,” Aggarwal told us. “There should be equal rights for those who choose to consume cannabis.”
|Photo: Seattle Photographer Daniel Sheehan|
|Dr. Sunil Aggarwal: “This bill is a wonderful step forward for health, human rights, and social justice.”|
A solid majority — 56 percent — of Washington voters agree with Dr. Aggarwal, saying they believe legalizing marijuana is a “good idea,” according to a 2010 poll. Support was broad and deep across all age groups from 18 to 64. Only among those 65 or older did support drop to 32 percent.
The legalization bill brings to three the number of potentially important measures which would affect the pot laws in Washington state.
• Sensible Washington on Wednesday kicked off their second attempt to legalize marijuana in the Evergreen State by ballot initiative; their attempt last year fell short of the number of signatures required to place a measure on the ballot. Sensible Washington’s measure would simply remove all current state penalties for adult marijuana possession, and leave it to the Legislature to draw up rules regarding its taxation, production, and sales.
• Rep. Dickerson’s bill, described in this story, which would legalize marijuana, tax it, and sell it through state liquor stores. State-licensed farmers would produce cannabis.
• The medical marijuana reform bill sponsored by state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, which would add patient arrest protection and safe access (state-licensed dispensaries) to Washington’s already-existing medical marijuana law, approved by voters in 1998.