Last week, Governor Christine Gregoire dealt a huge blow to tens of thousands of Washington’s most vulnerable citizens. By vetoing the most useful parts of a medical marijuana bill, the governor shut down an emerging industry that was providing safe access to medicine for cancer and AIDS patients, multiple sclerosis sufferers, and those with severe pain.
As a result, criminal gangs are now poised to reclaim the marijuana market, bringing more violence to our streets and greater dangers to our children, and making it unnecessarily difficult for the sick and terminally ill to get the medicine that their doctors authorize. The governor’s stated reason for leaving us in this mess was that she feared the federal government’s response.
Fifty years ago, the Civil Rights movement saw the federal government use its power to overturn injustices being carried out by the states. Today, the fight for sane and sensible marijuana laws has turned that dynamic on its head. The states are now struggling to overturn injustices being carried out by the federal government.
The voters of Washington have repeatedly made it clear that they expect to be able to establish their own rules concerning the use of marijuana as medicine. Sensible Washington now says it is taking that effort to the next level with I-1149, which instructs the state Legislature to stand up to the federal government’s entire War on Marijuana by enacting sensible regulations that finally allow for enforceable age restrictions and the removal of criminal elements from the production and sale of cannabis.
“Whether we’re talking about medicinal use or recreational use of cannabis, well-regulated markets that only sell to adults are always safer for our communities than black markets that sell to people of any age,” said Lee Rosenberg of Sensible Washington on May 5.
The history of Washington’s medical marijuana law has seen the same pattern occur time and time again, according to Sensible Washington.
“Every time well-intentioned reformers try to work with the Legislature to gain better protections for the citizens of Washington, special interest groups come in, throw their weight around, and leave things in even worse shape than before,” Rosenberg said.
I-1149 makes this outcome impossible, according to Sensible Washington, by passing into law the necessary baseline for effective reform — the removal of criminal sanctions for consensual marijuana-related activities by adults — and then instructs the Legislature to regulate the trade.
The most effective aspect of this approach, according to the group, is that the federal government has no ability to overturn it. While the federal government can preempt regulations, they cannot force a state to enact criminal sanctions.
Therefore, I-1149 leaves the federal government with only two options: Force Washington to have a legal and unregulated marijuana market, or honor the will of the state’s voters and allow the Legislature to regulate the market. Not even the federal government would be irresponsible enough to choose the former.
This approach, as a matter of facet, is very similar to how the states eventually brought about the end of alcohol Prohibition in the early 1930s.
Sensible Washington says it has about 1,000 volunteer signature gatherers working all over the state to get I-1149 on the ballot, “but even that’s no guarantee that we’ll succeed in getting the 241,000 signatures we need,” Rosenberg said.
According to the group, paid signature gatherers can ensure that I-1149 makes the ballot. If you care about implementing positive and effective marijuana reform in Washington state, visit the Sensible Washington website
where you can donate money, skills, or time.