Wash. Could Become First State to Approve Recreational Sales of Marijuana
Washington state is on the verge of becoming the first in the nation to let adults over 21 buy taxed, inspected marijuana at state-licensed shops.
It might not clear up more than a decade of confusion that resulted from the state’s medical marijuana law, or reverse the proliferation of dispensaries. But supporters say passing Initiative 502 on Nov. 6 could make drug laws more reasonable, prevent thousands of arrests a year, and bring Washington hundreds of millions of dollars to help pay for schools, health care and basic government services.
It could also set up a big fight with the federal government.
Voters in Colorado and Oregon are considering similar measures. But based on polls, Washington’s initiative might stand the best chance of passing. The measure has drawn slim organized opposition and gained support from some former federal law enforcement officers. The campaign has raised $4.1 million.
“There’s a real disconnect with pot,” said Brooke Thompson, a retired teacher from Bainbridge Island who found marijuana innocuous when she smoked it as a young adult. “It’s been criminalized and criminals are making money on it. The state could be making money on it, and using the taxes to go into education. It seems like a win-win, and it would be nice for Washington to be the testing ground on this.”
“Testing ground” is the right phrase. Washington could become a laboratory in easing the nation’s drug war, which has cost more than $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives in the past 40 years while doing little to dent demand.
Just as likely, it could bring on a protracted fight with the federal government. Marijuana remains illegal under U.S. law, and when state and federal laws conflict, federal law takes precedence. The Justice Department has kept mum, but if I-502 passes, many lawyers believe the DOJ is likely to try to block the law on the grounds that it frustrates the Controlled Substances Act.
- Read the entire article at The Washington Post.
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