420 Magazine Background

Economy may put pot back in play


New Member
As state legislators brace for a bleak revenue forecast Thursday, one Seattle lawmaker is hoping bad news could put the idea of legalizing marijuana back in play.

Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, is the lead sponsor of HB 1550, a bill that would legalize the sale, possession and delivery of marijuana for adults over 21 years old. The substance could be sold in liquor stores and would be regulated in a way that is similar to alcohol.

Lawmakers will learn Thursday whether the state's multibillion-dollar budget shortfall is worse than previously projected, and Dickerson said that a drop in anticipated tax revenue of more than $500 million over the next two years could be the momentum the bill needs to stay alive.

"The chances of the bill moving forward depend on what's happening in the revenue forecast tomorrow," she said Wednesday.

Legalizing marijuana would generate about $440 million in new revenue every two years through cannabis sales, taxes and licensing fees, Dickerson said during a news conference. Most of the money could go toward funding such programs as substance-abuse prevention for youth and the Basic Health plan, which subsidizes coverage for lower-income residents, she said.

Although under Dickerson's bill marijuana wouldn't be legal until 2013, she argued that the state has a structural revenue problem that should be addressed beyond the next couple of years. The House Ways and Means Committee also held a work session Wednesday about the issue.

On hand to support Dickerson's proposal were former U.S. Attorney John McKay, Seattle City Councilman Tim Burgess and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes.

After the bill received a public hearing in a House committee earlier this session, support for it didn't appear to gain steam. It was not voted on before the cutoff deadline, and the chair of the House Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness said it probably wouldn't have passed out of the committee if there had been a vote.

"Maybe there would have been three yes votes; I doubt it," said Rep. Christopher Hurst, D- Enumclaw, the committee's chair.

Hurst argued that the bill wouldn't generate any revenue because marijuana is still classified as a controlled substance under federal law. The money could be seized by the federal government and anybody who sold pot in a liquor store for recreational purposes could be arrested, he said.

Dickerson said that she expects the bill, if passed, to be challenged in court but she hopes it could pave the way for a change in federal law.

"I believe that it will take a few states to come forward and enact legalization legislation before [the United States Congress] will change its mind," she said. "Some state has to take the lead; it might as well be Washington."
Top Bottom