The group behind the effort to legalize marijuana use in Washington state submitted 341000 signatures to get their initiative on the ballot on Thursday. Out of those, they will need at least 241,153 valid signatures to qualify.
New Approach Washington are the backers who raised over a million dollars, with $250,000 of that coming from Peter Lewis, the Ex-CEO of progressive insurance who has become a cannabis philanthropist. Initiative 502 would create a regulated system of state-licensed growers, processors and outlets and at each stage, the state will collect a 25 percent excise tax. Those licensees, at each stage will cost $250, with a renewal fee of $1000.
I 502 also lays out rules that prohibit producers and processors from having any financial interest in retailers, similar to the rules for alcohol. Conveniently, the State Liquor Control Board will administer the program if the initiative passes. Anyone in the state over 21 years old would be able to buy up to an once of marijuana at a time, or a pound of cannabis products, such as brownies. The initiative also deals with marijuana-infused liquids, you can buy or possess up to 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids.
I 502 has some heavy supporters. Outside of the money donors, it is also backed by two former US Attorneys for Western Washington and Seattle City Attorney, and ex-head of the Seattle FBI office, Pete Holmes, the Washington state Democrats, an impressive array of heavy-hitting FORMER judges in both superior and municipal courts, and the King County Bar Association.
But on Thursday, as the signatures were being turned in, there was already a group of pro-marijuana activists protesting what they think is huge flaw in the initiatives. Opponents of the initiative, but NOT opponents of legalization of marijuana, take issue with the part of the initiative that would make it illegal for a motorist to have more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in their system. Medical marijuana activists say that that puts an unfair burden on patients who may have a high tolerance since they are using marijuana to control pain, and put them at a higher risk of a DUI arrests. Patients have expressed their fears that their driving privileges would be taken away, and some are planning their own initiative to counter I-502.