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Lawmakers balk on marijuana initiative

Fri., Feb. 10, 2012

Legislative action unlikely, putting it into voters’ hands

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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