Washington State Divided: Wants Legal Pot, But NOT by I-502
Washington state voters have been split by the recent initiative 502 on the state voting ballot this year. In an unprecedented move, the ACLU and NORML put financial endorsements behind i502 and sent it screaming into the forefront of the fight against the failed war on drugs and the fight to free the cannabis culture from the prohibition. With proponents and opponents having had a year to campaign for and against Initiative 502 - New Approach Washington, voters are effectively split about what they want to do.
Clearly, for anyone who has kept up with even a minute amount of national news, knows already that national polls show that 52% of all Americans want to either legalize cannabis or stop fighting the war on drugs completely. Our state is no different, and more than 60% of all our citizens are ready and have been ready, to finally legalization or deregulate cannabis in all it's forms. Though are they ready to do so with 502?
And before i502, this was a clear and common goal. People have always had different opinions as to how cannabis should be legalized, and the common goal was to vote for the common good of all. Yet once NAW stepped onto the seen, backed by big dollars, they managed to achieve 2 things that had never been achieved before:
1) NAW successfully campaigned and paid for 502 to not just get on the ballot, but they also managed to get an estimated 51% of voter approval for the bill in pre-election polls.
2) They instigated the largest in-culture battle that the cannabis community in Washington State has seen to date, effectively dividing the community between those who want to do it right and those who want to do it now.
Now, before this author gets ahead of herself, I must say, that there is effectively no way to empiracally estimate what sort of tolls the passing or failing of this initiative will have. The pro-502 side, feels that most of the support for the bill are from non-patients and non-cannabis users, and that voting down the bill now, would tell those voters that our state is not yet ready to declare itself a pro-legalization state. They feel that now is the time to act, even if the bill is not sound or scientifically viable yet. Ironically, they are right, as the majority of the cannabis community in our state, does not want the bill to pass and are the leaders of "No on 502" campaigns, aimed at getting voters to reject the initiative and keep it from passing. Their argument, is that the bill is so rife with extreme problems, that it will create more trouble then it is worth. Included in those lists of challenges are provisions for harsh penalities for adults between the ages of 18-20, the allowance of road-side blood draws from police offers who deem any person (even non-users) to appear to be under the influence of marijuana, the DUID revenue scheme, state monopoly of plant growth, production and sales, a lack of personal home growing provisions, lack of parental protection, draconian tax rates on production, processing and purchases, and a lack of protection for cannabis consumers and medicinal patients.
Because there is no way of knowing how voters will feel next year, if we defeat the bill this year, debates are becoming aggressive and activists are getting more vocal on both sides of the fence. As an author who is in the middle of it all, and the creator of the "I-502 Extreme Debating Group" on Facebook, I can tell you that it is not an easy toss up for undecided voters. Within a few days from today (Oct 10th, 2012), the last estimate on polling reported by the Seattle Times showed 47% in favor of voting for i502 and 40% Against 502 among voters most likely to vote. 13% remain undecided as Nov 6th looms nearer, hitching the breath of millions in our state as they wait to see what the final outcome will be.
It's Up to the Undecided
In the end, it will be the 13% that will change the course of history in our state and in our country forever.
If NAW, NORML and the ACLU of Washington, manage to gain a lead of at least 51% by November 6th, the initiative will become state law in December 2012. If opponents of 502 can reach enough active voters and gain just 5% more of those votes, then 502 will be defeated.
Proponents and Opponents who are deeply involved in the campaign battles have both admited that very little would change if the bill was passed or if it gets rejected, leaving undecided voters even more confused. The one thing we can be sure would happen, is that if 502 passes, our states position about the legality of cannabis will surely be confirmed nation wide. And as a state that has lead the rest of the country in many ways, and especially in marijuana reform, this is a BIG deal. Though there are more questions about reputation, messages and image that need to come into play. Initiative 502, which was decievingly advertised as a "legaization" bill, is infact a "Tax and Regulation" act. The initiative actually adds more work for our police departments, more regulations to the production, processing, purchase and use of the plant and effectively reduces any ability of the cannabis industry to stimulate the economy. Do we want voters outside of the cannabis community, to feel that we think we need this sort of draconian regulations and babysitting?
Likewise, if we reject the initiative, will that deflower the budding movement enough to stifle the passing of Initiative 514 (CCPA), set to reach our ballots next year? Will voters not as deeply involved in the issue, decide that we are not ready because even the cannabis community itself didn't want to pass this bill? Or will voters think for themselves, do some research and realize that it was for their benefit as well as the cannabis communities of Washington, that the bill did not pass?
No one really knows with complete authority at this point, what will happen after Nov 6th. We'll have a new president, whom I hope is Gary Johnson, we'll have created equal inequality for all orientations of couples who want to marry and we'll either have passed 502 or denied it.
Either way, come November 7th, it will come time to plan the next plan of action.
If 502 Passes: We will have to diligently work together to fix the extreme challenges within the bill, which many proponents suggest will not be "that hard", though we will have to wait 2 years before any such changes can be implemented.
If 502 Fails: We will have only a few months to plan our actions for campaigns for CCPA 514 and any similar bills, before immediate campaigning will need to be done to ensure full support again next year.
Good luck to all sides!