Could Washington legalize pot in the new year?

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by DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @Drewmikk

KING5.com

Posted on December 29, 2011 at 5:21 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 29 at 6:27 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Supporters of an initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana said they have more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in November 2012.

Initiative-502 backers submitted more than 350,000 signatures to be verified by the Secretary of State's office.

If the initiative qualifies for the ballot, Washington voters would be the first in the nation to legalize pot.

Anyone over the age of 21 would be allowed to have up to an ounce of marijuana.   It would have to be purchased at a state-licensed store.  Those privately-owned outlets would only be allowed to sell marijuana.

I-502 supporters were met by about a dozen protesters in Olympia Thursday afternoon.
Some medical marijuana patients said the initiative would put them at risk for driving under the influence charges.

Under I-502, drivers with more than 5 nanograms of THC in their bloodstream would face DUI charges.

Opponents argue those who routinely use medical marijuana are not impaired at that level.
Police also have concerns about the initiative.

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs is not endorsing the initiative, citing concerns over increased usage, especially among minors.

Even if voters pass the law, federal law still considers pot an illegal drug.

"The state would be telling citizens 'It's OK for you to posses and use small amounts of marijuana' but you could be arrested on federal charges the very next day," said Don Pierce, Executive Director of the association.

Supporters say by passing the law, Washingtonians could help end the nation's prohibition against pot.

"One state or two states have to be first," said Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, "We need to start this message and make it heard in Washington, D.C."

Governor Christine Gregoire is working with two other governors to try and get the DEA to reclassify marijuana as a schedule two drug, so doctors could prescribe it.

Right now, marijuana is considered a schedule one drug along with cocaine and heroin.

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