Will Feds Step In if Washington State Passes Initiative-502?

WSJ Team September 23, 2012 0

Washington is only one state with the opportunity to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Residents will have their say when they vote for or against I-502  on Nov. 6. Proponents of the legalization of marijuana use will be watching closely to see if the federal government throws its weight around as it has in the previous months, interfering with medical dispensaries operating legally in states where such laws apply.

If passed, I-502 will make legal the use and possession (up to one ounce) of marijuana by anyone age 21 or over. Retail stores will be licensed and regulated by the state. Marijuana sold would have to be grown within the state. Detailed analysis conducted by Washington’s Liquor Control Board concluded that passage of the initiative would likely result in an estimated 328 retail stores specializing in marijuana products.  They also estimate 363,000 people consuming some 85 metric tons of pot each year. The bonus to the state’s budget is $560 million earned in taxes annually.

Many worry that the federal government will only increase its attacks on those who sell marijuana legally. Says Georgetown law professor, Randy Barnett, “Washington state is its own boss under criminal law, but what they say doesn’t affect the federal government’s authority to enact the Controlled Substances Act.”

Kevin Sabet, the former senior drug policy advisor to Obama put an even chiller perspective on things. “The idea that a state can collect funds, collect taxes off an illegal activity – I can’t imagine that would be allowed.”

Some remain hopeful that the feds would finally back-off.  Pete Homes, city attorney for Seattle has been in talks with the feds and believes that, “…in the end…the feds will go with the will of the voters.

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