|Photo: KOMO News|
|Congressional candidate Roger Goodman, left, advocates the legalization of marijuana and protecting the planet.|
What if we could elect a real, live drug policy reformer to Congress? A candidate who has that background — and unabashedly advocates the legalization of cannabis nationwide — is running for the U.S. House of Representatives from Washington state, and he has an excellent chance to win.
Washington state Rep. Roger Goodman had in February initially announced he would run in the 8th District against Rep. Dave Reichert, a right-wing Republican, but now that Rep. Jay Inslee is vacating his seat in the House to run for Governor, Goodman will be running for that open seat in the reliably liberal 1st District where he lives, the candidate told Toke of the Town in an exclusive interview Friday afternoon.
“My number one priority is planetary health,” Goodman told me. “We need to pay attention to that, and we need to foster justice in our society.
“Cannabis policy reform is actually a part of both of those major issues, and my training as a lawyer, an environmentalist, a former Congressional chief of staff, a state agency director, and now as a legislator and reformer for years, qualifies me not just on cannabis reform but on qualify of life issues and on true progressive leadership,” he said.
“Drug policy so strategically connects to other policies, and people don’t realize it,” Goodman said. “Safe streets, good education, reasonable taxes…
|Photo: Roger Goodman For Congress|
|Roger Goodman: “We need to pay attention to planetary health”|
”Nationwide, about 7 or 8 billion dollars is spent just on marijuana enforcement,” he told me. “That money could certainly be better used. But I don’t stress the savings; I’m really more concerned about public safety, children and families.
“Our marijuana policies allow illegal markets to deliver an unregulated product, and that’s just not safe, for patients or for anyone else who might want to use it,” Goodman said. “My primary concern is public safety, health care, and wellness.
“And yes, let’s make some money from this,” Goodman said. “Let’s tax it and use some of that money for health care.”
Roger’s Got A Killer Resumé
Rep. Goodman isn’t just frontin’ when he talks about drug policy reform. The man served as the executive director of the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines Commission in the late 1990s and was elected to the National Association of Sentencing Commissions. While with the state commission, he published reports on prison capacity and sentencing policy, helped increased the availability of drug treatment in prisons, and guided 14 other sentencing-related bills through the Washington Legislature.
|Photo: Pete Kuhns/Seattle Weekly|
|Rep. Roger Goodman shows off a stash of his drug of choice: chocolate.|
”In Washington state, we put about 8,000 people in cages every year who either should just be left alone, or should be receiving mental health or substance abuse treatment,” Goodman said. “We have a lot of progress that needs to be made.”
Goodman is very acquainted with our drug policies, and the fact that they need fixing. He next led the King County Bar Association’s Drug Policy Project, which coordinated a groundbreaking initiative to critically look at drug laws and promote cheaper, more effective, and more humane policies. In doing so, Goodman helped create a coalition of more than 20 professional and civic organizations that has spurred the Legislature to reduce sentences for drug offenders and shift funding away from incarceration and into drug treatment.
Medical Marijuana In Crisis
A state representative since 2008, Goodman cosponsored a marijuana legalization bill in the just-completed session of the Legislature, and also supported a bill which would have explicitly legalized dispensaries in Washington state. That bill, SB 5073, passed both houses of the Legislature, but in a stunning failure of leadership, hen-hearted Gov. Christine Gregoire used her line-item veto to eviscerate the measure.
|Photo: The Stranger|
|Rep. Roger Goodman: “We’ve driven patients back to the streets. Do we want the drug dealer model, or do we want the safe access point model?”|
”Our medical marijuana program is in crisis right now,” Goodman told Toke of the Town. “It’s worse than it was before the Governor partially vetoed the bill. What was left over made it worse.”
“We’ve now driven patients back to the streets,” Goodman said. “Do we want the drug dealer model, or do we want the safe access point model?
“There’s a lot of politics going on behind the scenes, and extraneous political interests,” Goodman acknowledged. “It’s not a pure thing.”
Calling state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, sponsor of SB 5073, “the undisputed champion on this issue,” Goodman said safe access for medical marijuana patients “a very important thing we have to get done.”
“I do fear that patients will have problems getting access safely, because dispensaries as we now understand them will be actually prohibited, and the limit of one provider to one patient and the 15-day waiting period are going to hamper access,” he said.
At the same time, Goodman is holding out hope that patients in the Seattle area, at least, can preserve some sort of safe access. “King County is going to look at various zoning ordinances that came out of this bill,” he told me.
Goodman is backing a new bill, HB 2118, which he says is “from the patient’s perspective.” According to the legislator, it allows for dispensaries to get business licenses and allows localities to zone to specifically allow for the shops.
|Graphic: Roger Goodman For Congress|
”It’s a starting point,” he told me, “but it’s what the patients would like. There’s no registry, and there’s no need for a registry. If you
have the authentic documentation, that’s all you need.
have the authentic documentation, that’s all you need.
“This is about health care, not crime,” Goodman said. “I actually have a very good relationship with law enforcement. I legislated against domestic violence and helped get drunk drivers off the road.”
Speaking of impaired driving, Roger Goodman is one of the few politicians I have ever heard admit he was wrong. He incurred the wrath of many marijuana activists when he sponsored a DUI marijuana bill in the Legislature; his bill would have set a THC blood limit of 8 ng/ml as the definition of being impaired by cannabis.
But after hearing from a lot of constituents and checking out the available information, Goodman realized there are no definitive answers showing that 8 ng/ml or any other particular cut-off level for blood THC is necessarily indicative of impairment.
“When I learned there was no good science on the subject, I actually withdrew that proposal, and I helped Colorado defeat that same marijuana DUI proposal,” Goodman told me.
‘Some Concerns’ With New Approach Washington
Which brings us to New Approach Washington, a legalization initiative announced just this week which is backed by some major names including former U.S. Attorney John McKay, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and travel writer Rick Steves.
The language of that measure specifies the low limit of 5 ng/ml as the cutoff point for defining cannabis impairment while driving. That level would effectively outlaw any driving, ever, for many medical marijuana patients who must use large amounts of cannabis every day, because they’d show up over the limit even when completely unimpaired.
|Photo: Roger Goodman For Congress|
Another big concern for marijuana activists in the New Approach Washington measure’s language is the fact that while it would allow adults to buy pot at state-run stores, it still wouldn’t allow home cultivation of recreational cannabis.
“I’ve heard quite a number of concerns from people who’ve called me about the nanogram limit for driving, and about the fact there’s nothing about home growing,” he told me.
“I will be ready to receive it enthusiastically in the Legislature, anticipating the ability to amend it,” Goodman said. “The problem is if the Legislature does not amend it, the way it is drafted today, it would appear on the ballot in November 2012. There are some concerns, and we need to tweak it or re-draft the language quite soon.
“The other thing is this home growing,” Goodman said. “People need to be able to produce and consume, and have non-commercial gift exchanges perhaps of small amounts.”
But even in its imperfect form, the New Approach Washington initiative represents enormous progress, according to Goodman. “I have to say this is a huge step where we have a bipartisan group of prominent people putting it forward,” he told me. “I’ll do what I can to move it through the Legislature.”
Tipping The Balance, $4.20 At A Time
At any pivotal point in our nation’s history — and look around you, man, we’re in one of those — one well-informed politician can help tip the balance back towards sanity when it comes to drug policy, environmental policy, public safety, and health care, and Goodman said he wants to be a part of that.
The presence of a man like Roger Goodman in Congress could make a major difference going forward as our nation discovers the way to a saner approach on marijuana.
“We’re so close to the tipping point,” Goodman told me. “I want to offer some experienced leadership in drug policy reform; to join Jared Polis, Barney Frank and others who are making a difference on the Hill.
“Getting me there will get us all one step closer to loosening the federal Controlled Substances Act, for the health, welfare and safety of the people,” Goodman said.
“The number one thing I need at the moment is for people to go to goodmanforcongress.com and help elect me,” Goodman said.
“I know that people are mostly, including myself here, of very modest means,” he said. “I’m not asking for a lot of money. But I do need $4.20 from as many people as possible by next week. We’re doing well; we’ve reached our target for the first quarter and we are being taken very seriously.”
Summing It Up
I have to tell you, it’s a blast to speak with a politician who seems to be more concerned about the people and the environment than about the corporations. Goodman is definitely that guy.
“We need to pay attention to planetary health,” Goodman told me. “We need to foster justice in our society.
“When I was a Congressional staffer, I had to be quote-unquote ‘professional,’ ” Goodman said. “Now I can speak the truth, and it’s just so refreshing — and people can sense that.
“That’s given me the inner strength to lead,” Goodman said. “Simply to lead.”
To learn more about the Roger Goodman for Congress campaign, or to contribute, visit http://goodmanforcongress.com/. You can also “Like” the Roger Goodman For Congress Facebook page.