420 Magazine Background

Marijuana initiative no way to change law

Thread starter #1


Initiative 75 is a half measure that undermines our democratic system. In a
democracy, all power comes from the people. If, as a society, we believe that
marijuana use should be legalized, we should work to make that the law. That's
the way democracy works.

Being unable to do this, Kathleen Taylor of the American Civil Liberties Union
(Seattle approaches sensible drug policy, Jan. 6) advocates and applauds
the police and prosecutor to look away in certain cases. This undermines the
rule of law and our democratic system. Change is possible. We can work to make
change happen but I-75 is not the way.

Taylor wrote that law enforcement resources will be focused on serious crime,
that it makes no sense to waste public resources penalizing marijuana
users. But
I-75 will not save any money for public-safety agencies. Marijuana
and prosecution already was a low priority. Basically the city arrests or
prosecutes marijuana possession cases when they fall into our lap and we
have no
other choice. Recent cases include a person arrested for bringing marijuana
the King County jail and another arrested for hawking marijuana brownies in
front of police officers.

While Taylor's arrest statistic is accurate, other numbers provide for more
accurate context. Seattle has a population of more than 500,000 people. Last
year, the Seattle Police Department arrested fewer than 500 people for
crimes and we prosecuted fewer than 100. There are no resources to save and
divert elsewhere.

Initiative 75 actually will result in more expenditures because now each and
every arrest and prosecution will need to be analyzed by a newly created
oversight panel. The fact is, most people prosecuted for marijuana
possession or
use have that charge tacked on to another crime for which they've been
When marijuana is discovered on a suspect, the police, under the law, must add
the charge to their report; I-75 will not change this.

Initiative 75's implicit message is that it is acceptable to ignore a law. This
is irresponsible and dangerous. Overriding state and federal laws make the
possession and use of marijuana a crime, and SPD and this office will continue
to make arrests and prosecute accordingly. Initiative 75 does not and cannot
legalize personal use of marijuana.

And, contrary to Taylor's opinion, I-75 will do nothing to protect medical
marijuana patients already protected under Initiative 692.

While Taylor feels that the focus of law enforcement must be public safety, not
enforcement of morality codes, marijuana laws are codified by statute, not
morality. And the greatest social harm resulting from the illegal behavior of
the student-loan recipient or food-stamp applicant described by Taylor is the
message we send to people that they won't suffer any consequences by
disregarding a law they don't believe in.

This is why I am personally participating in the I-75 oversight panel: to
provide front-line prosecutorial perspective and help keep the work of the
grounded in the realities of conflicting state and federal drug laws.

There is no pride in half measures like I-75. The democratic system works.
use it.

Tom Carr was elected city attorney in 2001.

Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA)
Contact editpage@seattlepi.com
Website: Home
Address: P.O. Box 1909, Seattle, WA 98111-1909
Copyright: 2004 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Author: Tom Carr, Seattle City Attorney
Pubdate: January 15, 2004