Topic: initiative 502
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March 15, 2013 at 4:36 PM
With U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder still deciding how exactly to respond to our new marijuana legalization law, one state lawmaker hopes a trip to Olympia is in store for the country’s top law-enforcement official.
State Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, sent a letter to Holder on Friday, inviting the attorney general to come to town for Hurst’s hearing next week on a bill regarding enforcement of the law.
“If Washington’s attempt at replacing the criminal market with a carefully controlled and regulated legitimate market is to be successful a close partnership to enforce state and federal drug laws against those remaining entities who operate outside the law will be necessary,” wrote Hurst, who chairs the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee. “I would like to offer an invitation to you or your representative to attend next Tuesday’s hearing.”
Will the late invitation — sent on Friday for a Tuesday hearing across the country — be accepted?
A call to the public affairs division of the Office of the Attorney General was not immediately returned.
House Bill 2000, sponsored by Hurst, would tweak provisions related to fines for violators, the price of permits for growers and sellers, and how close a marijuana store can be to schools, among other changes.
Holder told a congressional panel last week that he expects to make an announcement “relatively soon” about new marijuana laws in Washington and Colorado.
February 21, 2013 at 1:03 PM
The Associated Press
Two marijuana-related bills are advancing in Olympia.
A House committee Thursday OK’d a measure that would let people quickly vacate misdemeanor marijuana convictions in Washington state. And a Senate committee advanced a measure providing arrest protection for patients under the state’s medical marijuana law.
Washington voters last fall approved Initiative 502, legalizing the possession of up to an ounce of pot by adults over 21. The House bill is designed to clear the records of people convicted of minor pot-related crimes in the past — activity that’s now legal under state law.
The Senate bill is designed to make it clear that police should not arrest medical marijuana patients.
January 15, 2013 at 2:55 PM
Washingtonians wanting to weigh-in on the state’s emerging rules on legal pot will have a chance at six upcoming forums.
As it prepares to oversee a new legal marijuana industry, the Washington Liquor Control Board announced Tuesday the sites for forums across the state. One in Seattle occurs Jan. 24, starting at 6 p.m. in City Hall’s Bertha Knight Landes Room. After an open house with board members and staff, and a brief overview of the board’s role in voter-approved Initiative 502, public testimony will be taken 7:15 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The other forums, which follow the same time schedule, will be held:
Jan. 22, WSLCB headquarters, room 201, 3000 Pacific Ave. SE, Olympa WA 98501;
Feb. 7, Clark College, Vancouver, Foster Auditorium, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver, WA 98663;
Feb. 12, Spokane City Hall, Council Chambers, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd., Spokane, WA 99201;
Feb. 19, Skagit Valley College, Mt. Vernon, theater, 2405 E. College Way, Mount Vernon, WA 98273;
Feb. 21, Yakima City Hall, Council Chambers, 129 N. Second St., Yakima, WA 98901.
“This is an opportunity for the public to meet the Board and staff involved in implementation, learn about our role in implementation, and to provide testimony,” said board Chair Sharon Foster in a statement.
Information about implementing I-502, including a fact sheet and frequently asked questions — are available at www.liq.wa.gov.
December 19, 2012 at 12:42 PM
A national drug-reform group that helped fund Initiative 502 is taking out a full-page ad in Thursday’s New York Times to thank Washington and Colorado voters for having “performed a national service.”
The ad by the Drug Policy Alliance also thanks former President Clinton, evangelist Pat Robertson and the presidents of Columbia, Guatemala and Uruguay for making statements that support the group’s call to change U.S. drug laws. A political arm of Drug Policy Alliance donated $1.6 million to I-502, more than a quarter of the campaign’s total fundraising.
In a statement, Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann called 2012 the “best year ever” for drug reform.
“Voters in Washington and Colorado did more than just make history last month by voting to end their states’ marijuana prohibition laws and attempt instead to regulate marijuana as a legal commodity. They performed a national service by catapulting the national conversation about drug policy to a new level of urgency and political significance.”
Washington’s new law took effect Dec. 6, de-criminalizing possession of one ounce of marijuana. Rules for a regulated and taxed recreational marijuana market — with licensed growers, retailers and food processors — are being worked on now. The state Liquor Control Board is taking public comments on the marijuana producer license through February.
December 3, 2012 at 5:00 AM
Washington’s marijuana-legalization initiative proved overwhelmingly popular throughout most of King and Snohomish Counties.
Initiative 502 carried all but 5 percent of King County precincts and won a majority of votes in every city, according to a Seattle Times analysis of precinct vote returns. (Click on the map image to the left to see the larger version.)
Seattle registered the highest support – with 74 percent of the city voting to legalize pot. The initiative was favored by 66 percent in Lake Forest Park and 62 percent in Skykomish, Shoreline and Kirkland.
The weakest support in King County came in Maple Valley, Enumclaw, Black Diamond, Federal Way and Hunts Point. But even in those cities, a majority voted in favor of the initiative.
I-502 won 56 percent of the vote statewide, carrying 20 of the state’s 39 counties.
November 20, 2012 at 10:04 AM
A leading group of reform-minded law enforcement officials delivered a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder this morning asking him to respect the voters of Washington and Colorado who decided to legalize marijuana.
The Law Enforcement Against Prohibition letter was signed by 73 current and former police officers, judges, prosecutors and federal agents, including former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper. It adds to a similar request by Govs. Chris Gregoire of Washington and John Hickenlooper of Colorado, as well as 17 members of Congress, including Rep. Adam Smith, in asking Holder and the DEA to respect the new state laws.
The LEAP letter — also signed by four other ex-law enforcement officials in Washington State — frames an argument against intervention as a courageous moral good, invoking John Locke, the racially disproportionate arrest rates for drugs and the author of the Wickersham Commission, which led to the end of prohibition. It reads, in part:
At every crucial moment in history, there comes a time when those who derive their power from the public trust forge a new path by disavowing their expected function in the name of the greater good. This is your moment.
November 13, 2012 at 4:19 PM
By CHRIS GRYGIEL
The Associated Press
Gov. Chris Gregoire says the federal government still hasn’t decided whether to take action to block new laws legalizing marijuana in her state and Colorado.
Gregoire met with Deputy Attorney General James Cole in Washington, D.C on Tuesday. She told Cole she would prefer to know “sooner rather than later,” because Washington state is in the process of getting ready to decriminalize pot, which is still illegal under federal law.
“I told them,‘Make no mistake, that absent an injunction of some sort, it’s our intent to implement decriminalization,”’ Gregoire told The Associated Press. “I don’t want to spend a lot of money implementing this if you are going to attempt to block it.”
Initiative 502 passed last week with 55 percent of the vote in the state. It decriminalizes the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana beginning Dec. 6. The state would license the growing, processing and labeling of marijuana, but state officials have a year to come up with those rules before sales can begin.
Colorado also passed a measure legalizing the drug.
Federal lawyers are reviewing the two new state laws, trying to determine what their response will be, Gregoire said.
“It’s not a simple analysis for them,” she said. “There’s a difference between our two initiatives, and they want to look at that. They clearly want to know how things are going to flow, how regulations develop, how enforcement would be taken, taxes would be gathered.”
She said she pressed Cole as to whether the ultimate federal response would treat both Washington and Colorado the same way, and Justice Department officials indicated to her that that was their intent.
In Washington, home-growing marijuana for recreational reasons remains barred, as does the public display or use of pot. The measure also establishes a standard blood test limit for driving under the influence, and Gregoire says the head of the Washington State Patrol has to begin training officers to enforce that portion of the measure.
“He can’t wait, he’s got to start doing this,” Gregoire said.
Gregoire said she promised to keep the Justice Department fully informed as to the progress the state is making in implementing the new marijuana law.
Colorado’s governor and attorney general spoke by phone Friday with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, with no signal whether the U.S. Justice Department would sue to block the marijuana measure.
If Colorado’s marijuana ballot measure is not blocked, it would take effect by Jan. 5, the deadline for the governor to add the amendment to the state constitution. The measure allows adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and six marijuana plants, though public use of the drug and driving while intoxicated are prohibited.
Colorado’s new law also directs lawmakers to write regulations on how pot can be sold, with commercial sales possible by 2014.
November 12, 2012 at 8:55 PM
The Associated Press and The Seattle Times
Gov. Chris Gregoire will meet with U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole on Tuesday to discuss state voters’ decision last week to legalize and tax the sale of marijuana for recreational use.
Marijuana remains a banned substance under federal law, and it is not clear what the federal response will be.
Gregoire spokesman Cory Curtis said Monday that Gregoire wanted to meet with federal officials because “we want direction from them.”
“Our goal is to respect the will of the voters, but give us some clarity,” he said.
Initiative 502 passed with 55 percent of the vote. The measure decriminalizes possession of up to an ounce of marijuana beginning Dec. 6, but the state has a year to come up with rules governing the state-licensed growing, processing and labeling of pot before sales to adults can start. It also establishes new DUI law for marijuana. Home-grows and public display or use of pot remain barred.
“Our biggest concern is that the state has a fairly big startup cost in creating the whole licensing and regulating scheme around this,” Curtis said. “We want some sort of clarity on this before we get a year down the road on the process.”
Colorado also passed a legalization measure. Colorado’s governor and attorney general spoke by phone Friday with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, with no signal whether the Justice Department would sue to block the measure.
Gregoire’s meeting was a late addition to her schedule, Curtis said. Gregoire is in Washington, he said, to meet with Pentagon officials about issues involving the National Guard, and with Energy Secretary Steven Chu to discuss plans to deal with a leak at a double-walled tank of waste at Hanford, the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site.
November 9, 2012 at 1:51 PM
UPDATE 3:03 p.m. King and Pierce County prosecutors are dismissing more than 220 misdemeanor marijuana cases in response to Tuesday’s vote to decriminalize small amounts of pot.
In King County, 175 cases are being dismissed involving people 21 and older and possession of one ounce or less. I-502 makes one ounce of marijuana legal on Dec. 6, but King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg decided to apply I-502 retroactively.
“Although the effective date of I-502 is not until December 6, there is no point in continuing to seek criminal penalties for conduct that will be legal next month,” Satterberg said in a statement.
The dismissed cases involved arrests in unincorporated King County, as well as the state highways and the University of Washington. About 40 of the cases had already been filed in court as criminal charges; those charges will be dismissed. Another 135 cases were pending charging decisions and will simply be returned to the arresting police agency.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said he was dismissing “about four dozen” pending cases where misdemeanor marijuana was the only offense. He said his staff was continuing to prosecute other cases where possession was secondary to a more serious charge, such as drunken driving.
“The people have spoken through this initiative,” said Lindquist. “And as a practical matter, I don’t think you could sell a simple marijuana case to a jury after this initiative passed.”
In an interview, Satterberg said his office would continue to prosecute marijuana possession above one ounce, allowing for “a buffer for those whose scales are less than accurate.” His office also charges felony possession — for people with more than 40 grams — although he said his staff routinely allows those defendants to plead down to a misdemeanor.
“I think when the people voted to change the policy, they weren’t focused on when the effective date of the new policy would be. They spoke loudly and clearly that we should not treat small amounts of marijuana as an offense,” he said.
I-502 campaign manager Alison Holcomb said she was “incredibly moved” by Satterberg’s announcement, which she said showed “incredible courage.”
The decision supports a prime argument I-502 made during the campaign. A study by a group of academics found there had been 241,000 misdemeanor marijuana possession cases in Washington over the past 25 years, 67,000 of them in the past five years. “If 502 hadn’t passed, we’d see the same amount of marijuana possession cases every year,” she said. “What makes a difference is changing the law.”
Satterberg is the first prosecutor to change charging policy after I-502, but other prosecutors are also considering these cases. Tom McBride of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys said his office “just starting to work through those issues.”
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes has refused to prosecute misdemeanor possession cases since he took office.
Earlier this week, the chief criminal deputy prosecutor in Spokane County, Jack Driscoll, appeared to take a more conservative position. He told the Spokesman-Review that, even after Dec. 6, the only marijuana which was legal to possess was pot sold in the state-licensed stores called for in I-502. Those stores won’t be created for at least a year.
“The only thing that is legal is selling marijuana through those stores,” Driscoll said. “That will be regulated by the state. You can’t under this initiative have an ounce of marijuana that doesn’t come from a state-issued provider. You still can’t have black-market marijuana.”
Holcomb disputed that interpretation. So did Satterberg, who called it a “very narrow reading” of the initiative. “I don’t know how you trace where (the marijuana) comes from,” he said.
Satterberg said he expected federal authorities to seek an injunction to block implementation of I-502′s state licensing scheme for marijuana retailers and growers. “I think it’s the kind of issue the U.S. Supreme Court will have a final word on,” said Satterberg, calling it an “an important state’s rights issue.”
But he does not expect a federal lawsuit to target the types of cases he is dismissing, noting that states already have widely divergent penalties for marijuana possession.
November 8, 2012 at 5:10 PM
Gov. Chris Gregoire has not reached out to the Justice Department for clarity on the federal response to marijuana legalization, and does not plan to join Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has a call scheduled Friday afternoon with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to talk about the legalization measure his state passed.
Gregoire’s staff, along with the state attorney general and the Liquor Control Board, is instead planning to meet internally first regarding Initiative 502, said her spokesman, Cory Curtis. “We obviously have to have the conversation” with the Justice Department, said Curtis. “There’s this cloud hanging over it, no pun intended.”
Although Washington voted to legalize small amounts of marijuana beginning Dec. 6, pot remains illegal under federal law.
Curtis said contact with the Justice Department will likely begin through the state attorney general and the Liquor Control Board, which is the lead agency in setting up I-502′s state-licensed marijuana stores. AG spokeswoman Janelle Guthrie said the agencies have not met to game-plan for I-502.
Hickenlooper, who opposed Colorado’s Amendment 64, cautioned voters after election day to not “break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly” because of the federal threat, and the Colorado attorney general said the Justice Department should make its intentions clear quickly.
Colorado’s measure calls on the state Legislature to set rules for their state-licensed marijuana stores, which would not open for at least a year.
The process to set those rules in Washington will also take at least a year, and Gregoire also hopes for clarity. “Our big concern is that we not move down the road with money and time on rule-making if they are going to stop the process,” said Curtis.
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