WASHINGTON — Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Michael Baumgartner on Wednesday endorsed Initiative 502 to legalize retail sales of pot, calling the war on the illicit drug a matter of national security.
Baumgartner, a freshman state senator who is challenging Democrat Maria Cantwell, once worked for the State Department in Afghanistan to help farmers grow alternative crops to opium poppies. Baumgartner said his experience convinced him that criminalizing marijuana for adults only benefits drug cartels and puts American lives in danger.
Baumgartner joins a growing list of government and law-enforcement officials who back the pot initiative, including Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and former U.S. Attorney John McKay.
Baumgartner said in a statement that regulating sales of small amounts of pot to those over 21 would generate taxes and free up law enforcement to focus on major drug traffickers:
“I think I-502 is a responsible step towards bringing the illicit drug economy out of the shadows and into the open,” he said. “By licensing small business to grow, process, and sell marijuana, we enable police instead to devote its resources to dealing with serious crime. And we will generate funds that would be dedicated to health care, public health education, and youth use prevention programs.”