The marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 1550, may be stopped for this session of the Legislature. But this issue has been moving as never before, and it needs to keep moving.
This page has been part of it. On Feb. 20 we came out for regulation and taxation of cannabis for adult use, which HB 1550 would do through the state liquor stores. That The Seattle Times would say this lowers the risk for public officials to say it. At the hearing Wednesday at the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, you could feel the change.
united-statesThere were no Cheech and Chong jokes. This was serious business.
The first three presenters were Seattle City Attorney Peter Holmes, Seattle City Councilman Tim Burgess and Professor John McKay of Seattle University School of Law. All favored an end to prohibition.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, presented Hunter’s committee with an estimate that in the next biennium her bill could raise $441 million for the state. That would be welcome, just as the liquor revenue was welcome when Prohibition was ended during the Depression. But no estimate is reliable, and revenue, in any case, is not the main reason for doing this.
McKay, who was U.S. Attorney here during the Bush administration and who enforced the law against marijuana sellers, said prohibition has failed to stop people from growing, selling and using. He said the policy has put this into the hands of violent criminal gangs, just as liquor prohibition did in the 1920s.
Burgess, a former police officer, said prohibition has helped make the United States “the world’s biggest jailer.”
None of these arguments is new. They have been made and ignored for years. Now people begin to listen. If the Legislature does not act, the people may this year by supporting Initiative 1149, which would remove penalties for adult use without imposing the regulatory system in Dickerson’s bill.