Washington: Lawmakers Hold First-Ever Hearing On Marijuana Legalization
By Steve Elliott, Toke of the Town for Hemp News
Washington State lawmakers on Wednesday heard, for the first time ever, testimony in support of legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana for adults.
Members of the House Committee on Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness, in a heavily attended, two-hour hearing, heard arguments in favor of House Bill 2401.
HB 2401 would "remove all existing criminal and civil penalties for adults 21 years of age or older who cultivate, possess, transport, sell, or use marijuana."
The hearing marked the first time in history that Washington lawmakers had ever debated the merits of legalizing and regulating the sale and use of cannabis.
The hearing was the most packed of the afternoon. "People with pink hair or head-to-foot tattoos sat next to the more typical coat-and-tie lobbyists," reported the Spokane Spokesman-Review.
"The most impassioned pleas," the Spokesman-Review reported, "came from people who regard marijuana as a cure or treatment for diseases, or a civil right. "They suggested the state legalize marijuana despite federal laws against it, and assert a state's rights defense based on the 10th Amendment."
?Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and the leader of a statewide law enforcement group spoke out sharply against the legislative efforts, reports Jerry Cornfield of the Everett HeraldNet.
"I can't sit here and make something legal in Washington that is illegal in this country," Gregoire told reporters, apparently forgetting about her own state's medical marijuana law, passed by voter initiative in 1998.
Don Pierce, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, predictably denounced as "nonsense" the contention of legalization supporters that changing the law could net the state up to $1 billion in revenue.
"The biggest piece of science fiction I've read in the past three months is how much money we'd save if we decriminalize marijuana," said Pierce, apparently unaware of studies that show vast savings would result from doing exactly that.
"We don't need our schools, our highways, our factories, our airline cockpits full of people high on marijuana," said Pierce, apparently unaware that is already the case.
?Pierce, an obnoxious loudmouth, resigned as chief from the Boise, Idaho Police Department under pressure in 2004 after a mayoral corruption scandal. Pierce had overseen a kissy-kissy, gold-old-boy police investigation that found "no criminal wrongdoing" by former Boise Mayor Brent Coles, who later pleaded guilty to misusing public funds -- after the Idaho Attorney General's office took over the case due to Pierce's incompetence.
Pierce also seemed to have trouble remembering that although alcohol is legal, it is illegal to be under its influence in public, or to operate vehicles or heavy machinery while drunk -- as would be the case with legal marijuana.
Officer Pierce also claimed lessening the punishments for marijuana would encourage teen use, apparently unaware of data from the Netherlands which show the opposite effect. (The Netherlands' incidence of teen pot use is lower than that of the United States, and actually fell after the Netherlands liberalized their pot laws in the 1970s.)
Lawmakers also heard testimony in favor of HB 1177, which would reduce the penalties on minor marijuana possession offenses from a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine, to a monetary penalty of no more than $100, similar to a traffic ticket.
Both bills have received support from the Washington State Bar Association, as well as the King County bar and medical associations. Both, predictably, got thumbs down from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs and some drug abuse treatment and prevention professionals.
The Committee is scheduled to vote on both bills on January 20.
Washington residents can send pre-written letter to their state representative on behalf of one, or both, measures by visiting here: