Friends and foes of Washington’s drug initiative agreed on one thing Tuesday: The measure is far more than just a “medical marijuana” proposal.
Sponsor Robert Killian, a Tacoma doctor who has worked in a hospice for the terminally ill, said Initiative 685 offers more than the promise of relief from pain and nausea. It declares the “war on drugs” a failure and promotes a medical approach to drug abuse.
“We have never said this is just about medical marijuana” for victims of AIDS, cancer, glaucoma and other ailments, Killian told a forum sponsored by the Capitol City Press Club.
He said most Americans believe the law-enforcement approach to fighting drug abuse has utterly failed and that society must turn to treatment and prevention.
“We need to de-mythologize drugs,” he said.
The measure would allow doctors to recommend use of some now-illegal drugs - including marijuana, heroin and LSD - if such treatment for particular ailments is backed by science.
It would encourage treatment of drug abusers, rather than imprisonment.
But Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who for years has taken an anti-drug, rock-music assembly program into schools, said the measure could effectively legalize cocaine, heroin and other drugs to help with ailments as minor as headaches and insomnia.
“This could just as well be called the ‘legalizing heroin, get-soft-on-crime initiative,”’ Owen said.
He called it dangerous, saying it would set free hundreds of felons who are behind bars for repeat drug-related offenses. And he said even discussing proposals to ease drug laws sends the wrong message to the nation’s youth.
“This debate is killing our kids,” Owen said.
The forum, televised statewide by TVW, the state’s version of C-SPAN, sometimes grew testy and personal as Owen and Killian went at it.
Owen accused proponents of running a misleading campaign to tout an initiative written and financed by out-of-state interests.
Killian accused Owen of lies, exaggerations and sound bites aimed at scaring voters from taking a dispassionate look at the country’s drug policies.
Killian said the more important feature of the initiative is its proposed change in drug policy. Doctors already can write prescriptions for some heavy-duty drugs, including morphine, codeine and cocaine.
Owen said he could consider supporting a carefully drawn bill to allow medical use of marijuana or to allow its prescription by doctors if the federal Food and Drug Administration clears it.
But he said the sweeping initiative is “a very dangerous piece of legislation that puts our citizens at risk.”
The measure is on the Nov. 4 statewide ballot.