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March 19, 2012 at 11:29 AM

Libertarian presidential candidate endorses Washington marijuana legalization

The marijuana legalization initiative headed for the November ballot picked up another high-profile endorsement over the weekend: former New Mexico Republican Gov. Gary Johnson.

Johnson, running for president under the Libertarian Party, called Initiative 502 “fiscally responsible and socially pragmatic” in a statement sent out by the initiative campaign.

“We should regulate and tax it like alcohol and tobacco instead of propping up black market
profiteers,” Johnson explained. He also expressed concern about the thousands of marijuana
arrests that occur every year. “We have better uses for our police, courts, and jails.”

Johnson is a longstanding advocate for legalizing marijuana, so his endorsement of I-502, the first marijuana legalization initiative to make the ballot in Washington, isn’t as surprising as that of other backers, including two former U.S. Attorneys, a retired lead FBI agent, judges and public health officials.  But Johnson’s endorsement adds a national voice to the activist-vs-activist battle over I-502.

An anti-502  campaign – led by medical marijuana patients and their providers – spotlights the initiative’s “driving-while-stoned” provisions, which they say would effectively criminalize driving for regular medical marijuana users. Last month, NORML called I-502’s impaired driving threshold “arbitrary, unnecessary, and unscientific,” but then endorsed the initiative because it was “an historic opportunity to end marijuana prohibition.”

I-502 would legalize sale of small amounts of marijuana to adults 21 and over from stand-alone,  state-licensed stores, and impose a 25 percent tariff at each link in a regulated cannabis supply and distribution chain. The estimated $215 million in new tax revenue would be buttered across public health and substance-abuse prevention programs.

How much the internecine war affects the initiative’s odds in November is unclear; the most recent poll show lots of voters are undecided about I-502. But its support is coming from folks other than the usual suspects. Last month, Judy Pigott, heir to the Paccar fortune, kicked in $5,000.

Comments | More in Government, The Blotter | Topics: marijuana, medical marijuana

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