A group in Seattle kicked off a campaign on Wednesday to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Washington state, where it is already legal for medical purposes. The New Approach Washington initiative boasts several high-profile backers including former United States Attorney John McKay, travel show host Rick Steves, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, and former president of the Washington State Bar Association Salvador Mungia.
With five years' experience enforcing federal drug laws, McKay says:
"Prohibition is a dumb policy...Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, in law enforcement or a medical provider, you look at the data and you come to the same conclusion: The war on drugs has failed."
The initiative has already gathered 100,000 of the 241,153 signatures required to win a slot on the November ballot. It would legalize and regulate the sale of marijuana through state-licensed dispensaries, applying almost the same laws regulating alcohol. Home growing and sale between private individuals would remain illegal. Supporters estimate that the initiative would bring in $215 million in state revenues per year which are already earmarked within the initiative for various state health and drug education programs.
This latest push in Washington comes just a couple months after Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) bowed to federal pressure, vetoing legislation which would have clarified the rules for growing and dispensing medical marijuana. Despite the failure of Prop. 19 in California, supporters of legalization still have reason to be hopeful. At least two 2010 polls of Washington state residents found that over 50 percent think legalization is a good idea—which means turning the question over to the voters might also be a good idea.