Sensible Washington is disappointed that the ACLU of Washington is refusing to support I-1068. We believe that in so doing the group is ignoring the wishes of many of its members and contradicts its years of support for marijuana drug reform. We find it especially ironic that the organization which initially promoted legalization and reform in Washington State should retreat from its last 10 years of work on that front.
We are especially disturbed by the characterization of I-1068 as irresponsible based upon lack of regulation when the ACLU of Washington is well aware that the initiative could not include a regulatory scheme. Federal preemption issues make a comprehensive tax and regulate scheme impossible and the single issue rule for initiatives in Washington State does not help either. Those restrictions limit the scope of any initiative to removing criminal penalties for adults. If I-1068 is passed this November it will fall to the State Legislature to provide a legal framework for adult marijuana use, possession and cultivation. The ACLU of Washington has been involved in developing such frameworks, making its current position on I-1068 even more curious.
We are confused that the ACLU of Washington doesn’t seem to get that it is wrong for the State of Washington to continue to waste about $105 million a year in taxpayer funds to arrest, prosecute and imprison over 12,000 otherwise responsible citizens a year for marijuana-related offenses. We are confused that the ACLU of Washington would be willing to accept a state medical marijuana law which offers little legal protection to sick and dying patients. And we are utterly baffled that the ACLU of Washington does not get that the repeated failure of the Legislature to reform this state’s marijuana laws indicates that an initiative to the people is the only responsible method to achieve the kind of reform that the citizens of Washington State clearly desire.
I think the main stumbling block for the ACLU here is that they’ve become so enamored with having good relationships with certain powerful folks in the state that they’ve been willing to completely compromise on making any progress in order to keep that seat at the table. During the push to modify the medical marijuana law in 2007-2008, they ended up compromising so much that patients
ended up more likely to be arrested (see update 2) with the new law than they were before. The ACLU was prominent in those discussions. The I-1068 initiative is a recognition that trying to negotiate with the legislature is no longer a good strategy. This initiative is a way to force the legislature’s hand to deal with this problem head on and stop dicking around. And my own hunch (and it’s just a hunch) is that this made the ACLU uncomfortable. Otherwise, as Philip explains quite well in that post, their opposition to the initiative simply doesn’t make sense logically.
UPDATE: One additional aspect of this that’s worth noting is that the ACLU of Washington was the main driver behind the recent decriminalization bills in the legislature (which didn’t pass either the House or the Senate, despite merely trying to make our marijuana laws more similar to states like Ohio and Mississippi). Some of the folks who put together I-1068 had been very vocal in their criticisms of Alison Holcomb and the ACLU of Washington over not pushing for full legalization. Again, I have no idea exactly what drove Holcomb to come out against I-1068 (which has been endorsed by a broad range of folks already), but considering the ACLU of Washington’s track record in drug law reform, it’s probably a good thing they’re not involved.
UPDATE 2: After being challenged on the assertion noted above, I’m going to remove it from the post. This has been my perception from following a number of cases, but I don’t have any data to prove it, so I’m striking it from my original post. I do feel confident in saying that the revision of the law did nothing to prevent patients from being arrested, since the recent State vs. Fry court decision affirmed that the law does nothing to prevent patients from being arrested. My larger point that the attempts to work with the legislature were a complete failure still stands.