Thanks to Bailey for sharing this first-hand account…
Wednesdayâ€™s hearing by the Washington State House Public Safety &
Emergency Preparedness Committee on a decriminalization bill (HB 1177)
and legalized sales via the state operated liquor stores bill (HB
2401) was a surprising show. Tuesday night Rick Steves, travel author
and NORML adviser, gave a presentation with the Washington ACLU titled
â€œMarijuana: Itâ€™s time for a conversation.â€ (marijuanaconversation.org)
Itâ€™s the first pot reform infomercial! (Note: Only 50% more
interesting than standard infomercials.) However the discussion with
Steves, three members of the Washington Legislature, and Wash. ACLU
drug policy expert/hottie/new mother Allison Holcomb was entertaining
This show helped prepare an already committed grassroots effort for
the House hearing Wednesday. The bulk of the committee hearing was
devoted to decrim/legalization, no sweeping under the rug! First, the
committee chair throws a zinger, despite ample debate time the
committee would not vote on the bills at the hearing but would vote
same time next week. Whatâ€™s with the cliffhanger? It was implied that
amendments might be added to the bill, and according to some of the
guests, it needs them.
Enter testimony. First, the billsâ€™ sponsors, one of whom managed to
be an active reformer and elected official at the same time. Rep.
Roger Goodman spoke at the Albuquerque Reform Conf. last year, and
this committee hearing proved that he wasnâ€™t just talk. A member of
the committee holding the hearing, and sponsor of the legalization
bill he was cutting off as many common complaints against sensible pot
laws as he could count. Legalization doesnâ€™t let a genie out; the
genie is free and unregulated now. No, we wonâ€™t all become pot
zombies, but thanks for stereotyping. This guys a prohib argument
The state bar supports decrim not legalization, same with the King
County (Seattle) Medical Association. The King County Bar supports
both, the ACLU milttdrw (mother Iâ€™d like to talk drug reform with)
Allison Holcomb really supports it. Sanho Tree, drug policy chief for
the Institute of Policy Studies in Washington D.C. came all the way
out to explain how supply a demand works. It was probably a gruelingly
long flight for Mr. Tree, but at least the weather was identical to
D.C. A former state senator, some trial lawyers, someone finally
brought up that how establishment the support for legalization
actually was. Favorite line: â€œStates are the laboratories of change.â€
Then a trio from the Sheriffâ€™s and Police Chief Association spoke,
finally some dissent, it was getting repetitive. Apparently more kids
drink alcohol these days than smoke pot, and thatâ€™s cause alcohol is
legal. Could it be that alcohol is more addictive than marijuana? Lets
hope this particular sheriff/police chief isnâ€™t on the case, cause if
his investigations are as shoddy as his testimony weâ€™re in trouble.
Then they opened it up to the citizens, uh oh! This is when democracy
becomes a bad idea.
But then, a miracle, the Washingtonian reformers are by and large
sensible people, even a little square looking by Washington standards.
Some medical patients divided with one or both bills. Some felt that
it jeopardized caregiver/patient growers working with the stateâ€™s
existing medical marijuana law. Some felt it monopolized medicine and
dictates amounts or strains to patients with varying needs.
But the opposition to 1177 and 2401 wasnâ€™t done, enter Substance Abuse
Counselors and an actual middle schooler, uh oh, could be trouble.
Addiction counselors, you get 95% of the revenue from pot sales under
this bill, whereâ€™s the love? Well their beef is that since youth use
went up in the last Monitoring the Future, and since states all over
the country are interested in medical marijuana laws, accepting
medical marijuana makes teens smoke joints, imagine what legalization
will do! But that was nothing compared to a 9th Grader who had a
speech written by him OR for him. He explained that it was revealed
that 10 of his classmates had been found to be in the pot trade. This
led him to support the same policy that made it so easy for his peers
to get in the business. â€œDonâ€™t give up on us.â€ He pleaded. Nobody mock
this boy, I thought the same thing when I was 14.
Well hell, that took us back 10 yards. I could tell from the look of
one committeeman that he was ready to have this 9th grader make the
stateâ€™s entire drug policy. More speakers, more opinions, and only one
guy who looked like he just left a rock concert. With nearly a 90
minute pot infomercial of our own the committee was about to gavel to
a close, but wait. Iâ€™d signed up to speak, no one called my name,
could I please take the floor before this wonderful exercise in
democracy (extra sweet because it annoys the status quo) was ended??
The chairman, that wonderful man, said I could. And suddenly I was
legalizationâ€™s closing argument. (We might be boned.) I submitted some
copies of the comparison chart for drugs properties made popular by
Common Sense for Drug Policy. I took time to point out that alcohol
was more habit forming, and maybe thatâ€™s why more teens like to drink.
I reminded (or informed) them that youth use had actually declined
from 2002-2008, a time when medical marijuana states nearly tripled.
Maybe reasonable medical laws donâ€™t make kids get stoned. Then I
pointed out an article unearthed on DrugWarRant.com from 1910, showing
people making the exact same arguments for prohibition a century ago
as now. I was reminding them that teens now use pot more than
cigarettes, even though tobacco is more addictive and totally legal.
The chairman is trying to cut me off, and I thought we were pals!
â€œPlease understand,â€ I concluded hastily, â€œthat if you want to see a
world where anyone can get any drug, just look out the window, that is
the world we have.â€ Guess thatâ€™ll have to doâ€¦
What will the committee decide next week? I counted two definite yea
votes, and two definite nays. Four committee members mimicked
impartiality successfully. Could this pass? The fact that itâ€™s a
practical law makes me think no, governments rarely pass laws that
make sense, but then again, this hearing made me believe that anything
is possible in Washington.