2013 Initiative in the Works to Legalize Cannabis for Adults 21+, Extend Juvenile Jurisdiction

August 15, 2012

Sensible Washington has recently announced plans to launch a marijuana law reform initiative that would repeal criminal and civil penalties from the state code in Washington. This initiative will be filed in January.

To appeal to a broad voter base, this 2013 effort would set the the legal age at, and end cannabis prohibition for, those 21 and over [the group’s past statewide efforts had the legal age set at 18] — with an added caveat — extending the juvenile code to 21 for cannabis-related offenses. This would allow for marijuana convictions to be expunged from adult records for those aged 18-21, alleviating the life-altering harms of a conviction, such as denial of future employment and educational funding opportunities.

This initiative, if passed, would effectively end adult cannabis prohibition in the State of Washington.

This November, voters will decide the fate of the “legalize, tax, and regulate” Initiative 502. Sensible Washington contends that it’s not written to withstand a federal challenge, and that it is not legalization (marijuana would remain a schedule 1 drug under state law if it passes).

The belief that the tax and regulate portions of I-502 [which includes the entire distribution system] will not survive a federal challenge is shared in a recent report from the Washington Office of Financial Management: “To the extent that the federal government continues to enforce its criminal laws related to marijuana, it would impede the activities permitted by this initiative… Consequently, the total amount of revenue generated to state and local government could be as low as zero.”

In addition, Sensible Washington believes that the 5ng/ml limit for Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis (DUIC) – in addition to a zero tolerance limit for those under 21 – is not supported by science, and will result in convictions of people not guilty of actual impairment. This will be especially detrimental to medical cannabis patients, who will not be exempted from the new limit [you can find more information regarding our analysis of Initiative 502 here].

Sensible Washington maintains that the repeal model of ending prohibition eludes federal preemption. This method was used in 1932 to successfully end alcohol prohibition via Initiative 61 “Repeal of the Bone Dry Act“. I-61’s success established a legal precedent for repeal as a valid path to legalization. Sensible Washington’s initiative removes cannabis from Washington state’s list of controlled substances. The federal government would have no means to preempt it, as they don’t have the legal authority to reinstate criminal sanctions at the state level.

Regardless of the outcome of I-502, individuals will continue to be prosecuted for cannabis-related offenses, which is what Sensible Washington hopes to curtail with their 2013 campaign. If they are successful in collecting enough signatures and passing their initiative in the general election, cannabis will be legal for adults 21 and older by December, 2013.

Sensible Washington is currently running several city-level petitions for low-priority enforcement and federal non-cooperation. They plan to continue those efforts with hopes of making special election ballots next Spring. For more information e-mail us at info@sensiblewashington.org.

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