Election 2012: Why You Should Vote for Washington's Marijuana Legalization

The state of Washington will have measure I-502 (PDF) on the general election ballot in November to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in a manner very similar to alcohol.

I don’t smoke marijuana. I don’t care if you do. But I do care that our current system of law enforcement around marijuana creates more criminals than would otherwise exist, breaks up families and imprisons people unnecessarily. The criminalization of marijuana has all the same problems as alcohol prohibition and makes even less sense. If Washington state legalizes it, it may be the start to a national trend that will change our laws and culture to the benefit of all.

The proposed law

The proposed law would, at least in the state of Washington, legalize the production, processing, sale (with a tax) and consumption of marijuana. The current state liquor control board would be authorized to license producers (growers), processors and retailers. Further, state law would be changed to add marijuana as an intoxicating substance with a threshold similar to alcohol. General consumption and possession would no longer be illegal at the state level.

Oddities of the proposal

Vote Yes on I-502 to Legalize Marijuana

I’m not going to make a complete case here that the drug war and marijuana prohibition have been detrimental to society. Others have done that better. This law won’t even end marijuana prohibition. All it will do is relax the rules in the state of Washington and maybe, maybe someday the laws of our nation will change. What do I want to change?

I strongly think this law is a good idea even if it doesn’t achieve all possible goals. But there are some provisions that even someone inclined to agree with me might find objectionable.

I won’t pretend: this is not a perfect law. It’s not the one I would write. It might not even actually change anything — certainly we won’t enter a utopia of improved drug policy and a less racist criminal justice. But it’s better than what we have now. Vote yes on I-502 to legalize marijuana in Washington.

This post is part of series on the 2012 election, focused on the state of Washington. I highly recommend having a look at the state’s main voter guide before casting your ballot.