The bill would license cannabis farmers, create a 15 percent tax on the sale of marijuana, allow adults 21 and over to use marijuana and would allow marijuana gardening.
Rep. Chris Hurst began the hearing by noting that last year’s hearing on marijuana was packed. This year, he said, they reserved a larger hearing room — and he said he’s surprised that there aren’t many people there to testify.
Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson says people might wonder why a 64-year-old grandmother would want to legalize marijuana. “I’ve come to this position not because I use cannabis myself,” she said, but because of the harm she’s seen from prohibition. That includes people who’ve been caught with marijuana who will have a criminal record for life. “It’s harmful in terms of the huge waste that it causes to the General Fund of Washington,” she said. The amount: She says $25 million is spent per year on jailing people who use marijuana.
On the other hand, legalizing and taxing marijuana would net $400 million per budget cycle, she said. She said her bill also legalizes the production of hemp, “which would provide an enormous economic opportunity.”
Rep. Roger Goodman, also a sponsor, said prohibition never works. He said prohibition doesn’t address demand — it drives the market underground, where it’s more dangerous.
“We grew up with cannabis. We have to grow up about it now,” he said. “Prohibitions don’t work, regulation does.”
Hurst, the committee chairman, said states can regulate marijuana “perfectly fine.” But he said that doesn’t change that marijuana possession is a federal crime, which state law can’t change.
Dickerson said the federal government has not always been opposed to marijuana. “What I can say is that we look to history and we look to prohibition of alcohol in the ’20s. And how did that prohibition actually end? It ended — it started to end when Montana … took the initiative and said, OK, we’ve had it, we don’t believe there should be prohibition of alcohol,” she said. A few years later, other states followed, then the Constitution was amended. “Some states have to take the lead. Yes, this will go to court … but I say to you that Washington state can take the lead, and because we take the lead we will reap the benefits.”
Goodman said if the state lost a Supreme Court case, the people of the state and country would rise up and do something about it.
Goodman says the goal is to make marijuana more boring. He said if a teen’s grandma is using marijuana for cancer and you can buy it legally, it’s not as “cool”
Matt McColly with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition says police corruption cases most commonly originate with the illegal drug trade — mostly marijuana. As a former probation officer, McColly said he experienced “tremendous frustration” that there was “never enough space for the genuinely evil people in society — the child molesters” and those who prostitute children, he said. He asked how those people could get out of prison early while beds are being filled by people who use marijuana.
Ed Holmes with the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police says he’s against the bill. “I am concerned when I hear of the increased access kids ma have to marijuana,” he said. He also said marijuana shouldn’t be compared to alcohol. “You can have a glass of wine with dinner and not become immediately impared,” he said. With marijuana, not so: “you don’t smoke marijuana for the taste,” he said.