A scuffle erupted at a marijuana pro-legalization rally today at the Capitol rotunda, where travel guru and celebrity Rick Steves was speaking in favor of I-502, a measure that would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana.
More than a dozen protestors opposed to the initiative attempted to drown out Steves and other speakers, including a visibly angry Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia.
The protestors were largely complaining about a DUI standard in the initiative that would make it illegal to drive with more than 5 nanograms of THC in your blood.
Steves continued with his presentation despite the shouting between supporters and opponents in the crowd, which turned into an occasional shoving match. Washington State Troopers forcibly removed at least two protestors from the building.
Afterwards, Steves said wasn’t surprised at the turn of events. He said opponents used similar tactics in California in 2010 during the campaign for Prop. 19, a marijuana legalization initiative that was defeated.
“Since then, 50,000 people have been arrested in California in the last two years,” said Steves, who said he views legalization as a civil liberty and justice issue. Minorities and the poor are disproportionately arrested for marijuana-related offenses, he said, and legalization would take “crime out the equation.”
His support for legalization is also inspired by his travels abroad. In Europe, alternative lifestyles are tolerated, Steves said. But in America, people are put in overcrowded jails. “Europeans look at us and say, ‘What is with you guys?’” Steves said.
Steves, who has donated $350,000 to the campaign, said he decided to speak publicly because he’s not an elected official who has to worry about votes. “I can’t get fired either,” joked Steves, who heads a travel empire that includes tour books and guides, as well as his own TV and radio shows.
Photo slideshow of the I-502 Rally: