Earlier this week, sixteen Washington state legislators announced their endorsement of Initiative 502 pertaining to marijuana reform. Republican Mary Lou Dickerson, the prime sponsor of the legislation upon which this initiative is based and Jeanne Kohl-Welles, are amongst some of the more notable names on the endorsement list for this Washington marijuana reform initiative.
I-502, more formally addressed as Washington State Initiative Measure No. 502, would license and regulate marijuana production, distribution and possession for persons over the age of twenty-one and also remove state-law criminal and civil penalties for activities that are authorized such as taxed marijuana sales and earmarked marijuana-related revenue. In six months, the November 6th general election ballot for Washington will feature the appearance of Washington State Initiative Measure No. 502.
The measure taken by I-502 would remove state-law prohibitions against producing, processing and selling marijuana all subject to licensing and regulation by the liquor control board and also allow limited possession of marijuana by persons aged twenty-one and over. Initial licenses shall be $250 with an annual renewal fee of $1000. The imposition of a 25% excise tax on the wholesale and retail sale of marijuana will also come into effect, earmarking revenue for purposes that include substance-abuse prevention, research, education and healthcare. Laws prohibiting driving under the influence will also be amended in order to include the maximum thresholds of THC blood concentration levels, operating in a similar fashion to the .08 threshold for alcohol to keep impaired drivers off the roads.
The balance of this 25% excise tax as well as all retail sales tax would go to the state’s general fund and all of its local budgets. Preliminary analysis of the initiative published by the Washington state Office of Financial Management estimates that I-502 would generate at least $560 million in new tax revenue annually.
Republican sponsor Mary Lou Dickerson said in a press release, “The hundreds of millions of Washington dollars currently flowing to the marijuana black market each year should be redirected to legitimate businesses and taxed to support vital government services.” Dickerson has a history with marijuana reform, introducing marijuana legalization bills amongst legislature in 2010 and again in 2011, before co-sponsoring Washington State Initiative Measure No. 502 with nine other community leaders including Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and retired public health physician Kim Marie Thorburn. Dickerson also calls compare to current laws against cannabis as similar to the times of Prohibition in the 1930’s and says, “The only people who really win under this system are the gangsters and other criminals.”
Another longtime advocate for medical marijuana protection and marijuana reform, Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, points to all the benefits for patients by saying, “Under Initiative 502, patients would finally have protection from arrest for possessing marijuana. They would also have safe access to quality-controlled marijuana locally grown and sold by licensed Washington businesses.” Kohl-Welles is a big name amongst the sixteen sponsors endorsing the initiative, chairing the Senate Labor, Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee as well as the Senate Judiciary, Rules, Ways and Means Committee.
Although Washington State Initiative Measure No. 502 doesn’t change Washington’s medical marijuana law, it enables patients to receive new arrest protection and regulated access to quality-controlled, locally grown marijuana in Washington. If I-502’s debut on the November general election ballot goes as well as planned, Washington can then truly call themselves “The Evergreen State”.