420 Magazine Background

Stop prosecuting for pot? November vote possible

mcwow

New Member
(TACOMA) -
A group of Tacoma residents led by a local medical marijuana advocate is pursuing a city ballot initiative that seeks to make cannabis-related offenses "the lowest enforcement priority of the City of Tacoma."

Tacoma to wait for state Legislature to clarify medical marijuana law

A group of Tacoma residents led by a local medical marijuana advocate is pursuing a city ballot initiative that seeks to make cannabis-related offenses "the lowest enforcement priority of the City of Tacoma."

The proposed measure, submitted to the city clerk's office this week, received a ballot title Friday. That triggers a five-day waiting period before supporters of the proposed Initiative 1 can begin legally collecting signatures to get it qualified for November's general election ballot, City Clerk Doris Sorum said.

They appear to need about 4,000 valid signatures.

The effort is led by Justin Prince, the former proprietor of THC — a local medical marijuana dispensary raided by Tacoma police last year. He said the initiative drive largely was sparked by the city's efforts to eradicate businesses like his.

"We looked at what the city was doing in wasting limited resources in these hard economic times by going after legitimate businesses that serve a need," Prince said. "There are far better things they should be going after — like crimes that have actual victims."

A Tacoma police spokesman did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Friday.

Prince and co-petitioner Sherry Bockwinkel, a veteran signature gatherer, said they based the measure largely on Seattle's Initiative 75, passed by city voters in 2003.

State and federal law trump the Seattle law, but Prince and Bockwinkel say the citizens' will to minimize prosecution of adult marijuana offenses is largely followed under the local measure.

"The report that's posted on Seattle's website is just glowing about how well it's worked up there," Bockwinkel said. "It has seemed to have a great positive impact on the community."

Prince added that while some marijuana crimes are still prosecuted in Seattle, they tend to be more serious offenses.

"Right now, we just want to see Tacoma have a prosecuting attorney that pays attention to the city's will on these matters," he said.

Prince, who opened Tacoma's first medical pot dispensary in November 2009, eventually agreed to a misdemeanor plea deal after last year's raid and is now working through a deferred sentence, he said.

His dispensary was the first in a series of medical pot operations targeted by the city. Authorities later began sending cease-and-desist letters citing licensing violations rather than using police force. They switched tactics after residents alleged heavy-handed law enforcement against Prince.

In October, after hundreds of people filled City Hall, the Tacoma City Council announced it would delay setting appeals hearings in those cases until the end of the 2011 legislative session. All parties hope state lawmakers will clarify parts of the state medical marijuana law approved by a citizens' initiative and enacted in 1999.

Prince said the main reason his group wants the city initiative is so Tacoma has protections in place regardless of what happens in the Legislature.

Under Tacoma's city charter, a citizens' initiative can qualify for the ballot if petitioners submit a number of signatures "equal to 10 percent of the votes cast in the last mayoral election" within 180 days after a ballot title is confirmed.

That amount could range from roughly 3,800 to 4,100 signatures, depending on how officials tally ballot counts in Tacoma's 2009 mayoral race.

City officials are trying to determine whether to include 2,439 over- and under-votes from ballots cast but not counted in the election, Sorum said.

Regardless, supporters say they're confident they can collect enough signatures.

"Everybody I've spoken to are very supportive of this," Prince said. "This is not going away."



Read more: Stop prosecuting for pot? November vote possible | Government / Politics - The News Tribune
 
Top Bottom