February 10, 2012 in City

Lawmakers balk on marijuana initiative

Legislative action unlikely, putting it into voters’ hands
By The Spokesman-Review
More on this topic

Background and the latest updates

Gay marriage

bill signing

 OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire will sign a measure legalizing gay marriage in Washington state into law on Monday.

 The House passed the bill on a 55-43 vote on Wednesday.

 The Senate approved the measure last week. Gregoire will sign the bill at 11:30 a.m. Monday.

 The law would take effect 90 days after the session ends next month, but opponents have promised to fight back with a ballot measure allowing voters to overturn it.

 If opponents gather enough signatures to take their fight to the ballot, the law is put on hold pending the outcome of a November election. They must turn in more than 120,000 signatures by June 6 to challenge the proposed law. An anti-gay marriage initiative has also been filed.

 To qualify, 241,153 signatures must be submitted by July 6.

Associated Press

OLYMPIA – Voters will have to decide this fall whether to legalize marijuana for personal use. The Legislature appears unlikely to vote on, or even debate, the marijuana initiative sent to them.

The House and Senate government committees held a session Thursday to listen to supporters and opponents of Initiative 502, which would make personal use and possession of small amounts of marijuana legal for people over 21.

Two panels – one supporting the initiative and one opposing it – offered arguments that have become familiar in Olympia in recent years as the Legislature has debated ways to allow the medical use of the plant or decriminalize it.

Supporters said the initiative would help end a failed drug policy that benefits organized crime and imprisons too many people.

Opponents say it would lead to more drug abuse and that estimates of the amount of tax revenue the state would collect are way overblown.

But the committee members took no vote in what was officially a work session, not a hearing, and I-502 supporters said later the measure is unlikely to come to a vote in the short session that is already half over.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, agreed later in the day.

“It doesn’t look to me like we’re going to get a bill through the process,” she said during a press conference.

The Senate might vote on a resolution asking the federal government to reschedule marijuana so it could be used for medicinal purposes, she said. But a vote on the initiative isn’t likely.

Under state law, that means the initiative goes to voters in the November election and becomes law if it wins majority approval.

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