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Washington: Lawmakers Vote For “Continued Chaos”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 20, 2010

    They say that the will of politicians often lags behind the sentiment of the public. Nowhere is this adage more clear than when it comes to marijuana law reform.

    It was business as usual today in Olympia, as lawmakers on the House Committee on Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness voted down a pair of bills aimed at reforming the state’s failed criminal marijuana laws.

    House Bill 2401 sought to regulate the adult production, use, and distribution of marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. Here was the roll call vote:

    Hurst (D) Chair — N
    O’Brien (D) Vice Chair — N
    Pearson (R) — N
    Klippert (R) — N
    Appleton (D) — Y
    Goodman (D) — Y

    Kirby (D) — N
    Ross (R) — N

    House Bill 1177 was much more limited in scope, seeking simply to reclassify minor marijuana possession offenses from a criminal misdemeanor to a fine-only civil infraction. (Note, its Senate companion bill, SB 5615, awaits floor action in the Senate.) This change, known as decriminalization, is already the law in over a dozen states.

    Here was the roll call vote:

    Hurst (D) Chair — N
    O’Brien (D) Vice Chair — Y
    Pearson (R) — N
    Klippert (R) — N
    Appleton (D) — Y
    Goodman (D) — Y

    Kirby (D) — N

    The legislative defeats came despite nearly two hours of public testimony, nearly all of which was in support of one or both reform proposals.

    So what reasons did lawmakers give for voting ‘no’ on these reforms? Here’s just a few excuses.

    Committee Chair, democrat Christopher Hurst alleged that as a state lawmakers he is sworn to uphold both state and federal law, and claimed that both proposals would be in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act. (For the record, neighboring Oregon first decriminalized marijuana possession offenses in 1973 and has never run afoul of federal law. Likewise, New Mexico’s government has licensed the production and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes without incident.)

    Republican Brad Klippert stated, “As a law enforcement officer … on countless occasions I’ve seen the negative effects of marijuana on people’s lives.” (By that logic I suppose that the Representative would also vote to criminally prohibit alcohol, tobacco, and fatty foods.)

    Fellow Republican Kirk Pearson claimed that just by lawmakers talking about the bills they were encouraging teens to try marijuana. (“I don’t want to do anything today that would make drug use seem safer to teenagers,” he said, even though by his own logic he was better off keeping his mouth shut.)

    Finally, Democrat Rep. Steve Kirby alleged that he supported the reforms, in theory, but then inexplicably said that such changes in policy “require a vote of the public,” not action by the legislature. (Um, was marijuana prohibition enacted by a vote of the public?) Ultimately, however, Rep. Kirby may get his wish, as NORML Legal Committee member Douglas Hiatt has filed a petition to put the marijuana legalization issue on the November 2010 state ballot, and a recent statewide poll shows that if the election was held today it would win.

    In the end, however, Democrat Rep. Roger Goodman stood as the minority voice of reason when he told his colleagues: “A ‘no’ vote … is a vote for prohibition and the illegal markets that it spawns. A ‘yes’ vote is a vote for control. … A ‘no’ is a vote for continued chaos.”

    It’s a lesson that the public has already learned — even if a majority of their elected officials have not. Perhaps now is the time to teach them.

    85 Responses to “Washington: Lawmakers Vote For “Continued Chaos””

    1. Jeff says:

      I’m still not understanding why it is such a hard decision for these bonehead poloticians! They say that pot is a gateway drug but take a look at Amsterdam, people over there don’t even know what meth is! They are happy to just smoke marijuana and eat the occasional shrooms. The reason all of the harder drugs are such a problem is for the same reason there is so much crime tied to weed. Its illegal so the risk of getting caught is also part of the high! If marijuana were legal I can promise you that the rate of other substances will dramaticlly increase. Same thing happened with alcohol and should with marijuana. Also I have done way worse things when I was drunk than when I was high. Marijuana has never caused a death directly related to the useage of it and thousands of people have died from ciggaretes and alcohol so which would you say is the safer choice? (added by Mobile using Mippin)

    2. Jacob says:

      Makes me sad. The will of the people is speaking. When are you “civil servants’ going to listen?

    3. Mark says:

      Shane (#2)

      The prohibs have to be spoon fed because cannabis prohibition is a masterpiece in the art of brainwashing.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRcSfgBlxXQ

    4. Mark says:

      People need to look at what just happened in the MA senate election. That state just decriminalized and the candidate who LOST this election was AGAINST legalization.

      It can also be argued that the democratic pot smokers did not get out and vote for their girl.

      Bottom line is this:

      GET OFF YOUR ASSES AND VOTE!!!!!

      VOTE OUT EVERY CANDIDATE WHO IS NOT FOR FULL OUT LEGALIZATION!!!!!!

      cannabis is still illegal on the federal level and until it is legal on the federal level, we haven’t accomplished jack shit!!!!

      So there is no excuse for ANY pro legalization person to not be voting, and voting on this issue alone. because if we can not change this inhumane law with votes, violent revolution will follow.

      [Paul Armentano responds: Actually both candidates, including the winner, vigorously opposed decriminalization in Massachusetts.]

    5. carlos says:

      I say there should be a vote to illegalize alcohol and tobacco. 400,000 + 100,000 deaths a year from these substances..i mean come on..fuck the system

    6. chris says:

      in response to mike’s statement: ” Mike Says:
      January 20th, 2010 at 9:05 pm

      “good, I’m not 21 yet and drug dealers don’t ID. I don’t want weed legalized until I’m 21 anyway. Sad but true.”

      That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Do you even understand what the bill would have allowed? Dealers could still deal to you if you are over 18 without getting arrested. get you facts straight and stop being that selfish just because “YOU” aren’t 21. Dumbass… wait until you get pulled over and they find your stash.. then you’d wish it were legalized no matter what age you are. THINK!

    7. Dr. Who says:

      Any law enforcement officer, past or present, who thinks prohibition is the better course of action for our state/country is not thinking objectively or logically- or doesn’t know the issue.

      It’s common sense that prohibition creates drug dealers and in turn those drug dealers create violence. You’re taking all the revenue from these substances and puting it in to the hands of those violent criminals.

      Regulate, educate, make some revenue. Take the money away from the drug dealers and save a few lives by voting yes to bills like this.

      I believe members of LEAP have the right idea.

    8. Dizzle says:

      What’s up with this initiative in Washington? I live there, so can I sign it yet? Can I gather signatures?

    9. David says:

      Thanks for the clarification Paul.

    10. Mike says:

      I also would like to know what is up with the initiative. Where can i sign the petition to get it on the November ballot?

    11. steve fager says:

      Lets call a spade a spade. Why doesn’t Normal or Leap or anyone with the funding file a class action suit against the State of Washington on the behalf of all of the medical marijuana patients. The voters approved medical marijuana and law enforcement and lawyers who both have a huge financial stake in leaving the laws incomplete, wrote the legislation that leaves the patient in the middle with no legal way to purchase starts, seeds or medicine if the patient is unable to grow it. Now with the most recent ruling by the state supreme court, law enforcement has at their sole discretion, carte blanch to search, seize and destroy even if you are legal. Your only defense is at trial, which when you win you have no recourse against law enforcement for the damages. For a initiative that was about compassion, we the patients have allowed law enforcement, lawyers, NORMAL, LEAP and many other entities to turn this into a huge money making machine. If NORMAL really wants to reform marijuana laws PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS AND DO IT.

      [Editor’s note: It is not as if class action lawsuits have not been attempted in the past. To date none have been approved as a ‘class’ by judges after the government seeks summary judgment. If you’re correct, and you’re not, that lawyers affiliated with NORML (and the good folk at LEAP, who’re doing good work) are more interested in money than liberty, they’d be filing class action lawsuits left and right for the big potential payoff in legal fees, etc…

      In fact one of the lawyers who advanced a lawsuit trying to get a class of about 100 medical cannabis patients the furthest just passed away: RIP Larry Hirsch]

    12. A & M says:

      It’s sad that the only reason we were even interested in politics was to see that a marijuana bill might pass. As we watched the arguments we noticed that the cop said he never saw a good thing come out of marijuana (which is because he is a cop and is never called over to have a good time with it), the main spokes person hid behind the federal law because he is a pu$$y and needs to grow some ball$ and pave a new path, and the financial guy who’s only problem was the wording. How sad is an entire state’s fate based on 8 a$$hole$ in charge. It doesn’t matter anyway because legal or not, the same amount of people will continue to smoke and not give 2 $hits anyway. Keep your narrow-minded values to yourselves morons!!!

    13. Brian Kerr says:

      Sad.

      Register to vote and vote YES on the citizen initiative.

    14. DAVE says:

      I THINK IT SHOULD BE LEGAL, LESS PEOPLE IN JAIL FOR STUPID SHIT THAT GOD PUT HERE TO USE IT SURE IS NOT COCAINE OR ICE. AND IT IS ONLY ADDICTIVE DEPENDING ON PERSONALITY. I HAVE SMOKED IT SINCE I WAS 17 AND I AM 37 NOW LIFT WEIGHTS EVERYDAY GO TO WORK BEEN TO COLLEGE 2 TIMES IT DOES NOT BRING PEOPLE DOWN OR EVEN KILL PEOPLE LIKE OTHER DRUGS AND PILLS. AND HAS GOOD QUALITIES FOR USERS. THEY SAY IT IS BAD FOR YOU LIKE SMOKING BUT I DO NOT SEE ANY DAMAGE. IT COULD CREATE JOBS IN THE U.S. FOR MANUFACTURING AND SAVE THE PEOPLE MONEY OF TAXES GOING UP EVERY YEAR. THEY WOULD MAKE MILLIONS OF TAX REVENUE FROM POT AND WOULD BE HARD HEADED TO THINK OTHER WISE, HALF THE WORLD SMOKES POT AND IT AIN’T GOING AWAY I WILL SMOKE TILL I DIE CAUSE GOD PUT IT HERE SO MAKE IT LEGAL AND THERE WILL BE MORE SPACE IN JAILS FOR THE REAL PROBLEM MAKERS.

    15. Tim says:

      THIS IS A PIPE DREAM IF YOU THINK THAT THE government IS GOING TO ALLOW YOU TO HAVE THAT KIND OF FREEDOM.WE ARE GOING TO GET IN LINE OR ELES LOSE EVERYTHING THAT YOU HAVE.IF THEY WANT CHANGE THE CHORSE WE ARE ON THAT MEANS THAT THEY LIKE IT THAT WAY.THEY RATHER TAX THE SHIT OUT OF US AND SEE YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS LOCKED UP LIKE DOGS THAN TO STOP SPENDING ON SOMETHING THAT IS A EASY FIGHT FOR THEM.ON JUDGEMENT DAY I HOPE THAT I’M BEHIND EVERY PRESIDENT FROM NIXON TO THE PRESENT ONE.SEE THEY ARE GOING TO DO WHAT THEY WANT.IT’S A GAME EACH ONE TAKES SOMETHING FROM US AND THAT’S MORE OF OUR FREEDOMS.IF ANY OF YOU HAPPEN TO ASK A CANIDATE WHAT ARE THERE THOUGHTS ON ENDING PROHIBITION AND THEY GIVE SOME KIND OF EXCUSE THAT WE SHOULDN’T WELL TELL THEM WRONG ANSWER.IF THEY SAY I NEED TO LOOK INTO IT SAY WRONG ANSWER.BUT YOU AND I KNOW THAT THEY WILL TELL YOU WHAT YOU WANT TOO HERE. RIGHT OBAMA.

      O=NE B=AD A=SS M=ISTAKE A=MERICA === OBAMA.

    16. It’s interesting to note that one day we will look back on this lunacy and laugh.

    17. KH says:

      The emotional rants I’m reading here are not going to help. What you want to do is build a battle plan.

      Get it on the ballot and make it an issue, the polling is clear (even the R’s can read a poll), if they are given cover by a successful ballot initiative many will go along with the implementation specifics.

      The problem you will have I will tell you is that you are losing the battle with the 60+ crowd (in the interal polling data I’ve seen), and they are a growing portion of the vote share in WA over the last 10 years and they will be out in force in 2010 for other (national) reasons. The good news is the issue is a winner with under 60 crowd and huge winner with those 45 and under. So I would say the focus of education efforts should be on the middle age to 65+ crowd, convince them to fear this change less and you will win hands down, but you will need to move them 5-10 points in your direction.. ie have them be about only 55% against (down from 65%) and their vote can be out balanced by the younger voters for slim passage.

    18. Ptown says:

      If you ask just about anyone if they know the facts about (mostly anything) Cannabis they will know almost nothing.

      Educate, I try to tell as many people I come in contact with that the facts are….Safe,Natural,NonToxic Herbal Remedy…Cannabis (that should be a t-shirt since the whole green organic thing is getting bigger with every one especially MOMs).

    19. ol tex says:

      Keep on plugging Norml. A ballot is the only way this will get passed. Politicians are more concerned about their own jobs than in doing the will of the people.

    20. […] House Committee lawmakers rejected a pair of marijuana law reform proposals last week that sought to remove criminal penalties for the […]

    21. NM CANNABISM says:

      I am disgusted with the legislators who decided it would be more prudent to continue with a failed public policy instead of reforming the state’s harshly disparaging anti-Marijuana laws.

      We have given the government it’s chance and our politicians are more worried about being ‘soft on drugs’ than generating real, sensible, and compassionate drug policy.

      I invite anyone here who supports Cannabis to add me on myspace.

      Also, go to http://www.topix.com and search for the word ‘marijuana’ under the OFFBEAT forum.

      We have over 1000 posts so far and a lively debate concerning the legalization of Cannabis in the United States.

      Reap Hemp and Live.

      WE ARE THE MOVEMENT.

    22. packlama says:

      im for reefer for anyone over 21.i started smoking at age 17 and loved it.

    23. chris jones says:

      I am not represented by my gov. I am a stranger in a strange land.If you gov. dicks dont stop the madness we will and I say fuck voting, Ive voted every election for years still nothing. I say its a matter of time if the gov. keeps lying and putting corperate profit above people they will get what they deserve. riots and death. the banks and big buiz will fall and with that comes freedom. I will be ready.are you?

    24. Mike Stroup says:

      If I control what you put into your body, you are my slave. If you allow me to control what you put into your body, you are my willing slave. Either way, I own you. Only by you controlling what you freely choose to consume, or not consume, can you be free. Freedom used to matter in this country.

    25. NoWar says:

      Marijuana is a blessing to the people. The government knows it. It’s just too bad the government doesn’t believe in “blessings” they have worked all their lives to ensure that chaos reigns. How else would they profit? Look at alcohol and it’s side effects… Literally life-destroying when dealing this this particular human vice. Then you gotta look at how much the government profits off of it’s negative effects on humanity. Cannabis has no such effects that’s why it’s illegal. It’s population control. The government doesn’t want crime to stop! They feed unstable minds with alcohol in order to profit off of human error that some people are more prone to than others. Specifically the poor. Im sorry fellows but uncle sam is gonna start killing people before they’ll start listening to them. We as a responsible free nation might want to consider killing them before they kill us. And yes, they are going to kill us when all hope is lost. Nothing is more threatening to the New World Order then the pro-cannabis movement. They have already built concentration camps for political dissidents. If you support legalization that makes you a a political dissident and theyll use the patriot act to round you all up. Theyll label you terrorists so that your friends and family will give you up. Wake up America, we are at war with the devil himself. You can’t destroy the Devil, but you can destroy his human followers. There is no peaceful solution to this war fellas. You have allot more to fear for then cannabis prohibition. We outnumber these fuckers a million to one, lets use that power and take our country back. Then we’ll talk about legalization. TAKE THESE ENEMIES OF FREEDOM OUT OF POWER!!!

    26. […] January, House lawmakers also rejected a proposal that sought to legalize and regulate marijuana production, sale, and use to those age 21 or older. […]

    27. […] lawmakers on the Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness had previously rejected a House companion bill (HB 1177) in January by a 5-3 vote. You can contact your state lawmakers and […]

    28. […] lawmakers on the Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness had previously rejected a House companion bill (HB 1177) in January by a 5-3 vote. You can contact your state lawmakers and […]

    29. […] Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, which rejected a similar measure last year by a 6 to 2 vote. You can contact the members of this […]

    30. […] Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, which rejected a similar measure last year by a 6 to 2 vote. You can contact the members of this […]

    31. […] The measure has been referred to the House Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, which rejected a similar measure last year by a 6 to 2 vote. […]

    32. […] The measure has been referred to the House Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, which rejected a similar measure last year by a 6 to 2 vote. […]

    33. […] The measure has been referred to the House Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, which rejected a similar measure last year by a 6 to 2 vote. […]

    34. […] The measure has been referred to the House Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, which rejected a similar measure last year by a 6 to 2 vote. […]

    35. […] and Emergency Preparedness Committee. It was seen as unlikely to pass, as the same committee voted down a similar measure last year. All but two or the Democratic members voted against […]

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