I-75: a dopey idea

Marijuana as medicine was not a hard sell. Once it was explained that smoking hemp allowed seriously sick patients to keep from vomiting their medication, it was not reasonable to deny it. This page supported that for humanitarian reasons, even though a statewide initiative was effectively an attempt by a state to nullify a federal law.

Seattle's Initiative 75 is another step down the same road, and with less-compelling justification. This page does not support it.

The Seattle initiative broadens the reach to recreational marijuana, a matter that does not come with the aura of medical urgency. It also would set police department policy by initiative, a course this page disagrees with.

As a law, I-75 doesn't change much, and probably wouldn't do anything really terrible. It says that the City Attorney's Office, which prosecutes misdemeanor cases (possession of less than 40 grams), shall assign the lowest priority to cases in which marijuana was intended for adult personal use. It gives the same directive to the Seattle Police Department, which conducts misdemeanor and felony arrests. The initiative does not apply to King County, which decides whether to prosecute felony cases.

Seattle's policy is already to put a low priority on marijuana busts, and there is no political threat to that policy. To write the policy into law through an initiative does not remove any existing penalty or impose a penalty. It is toothless.

But I-75 is really not a law. It is a cultural statement about recreational drug use, and a political statement that the city of Seattle stands for legalization. It is a kind of lobbying. That is why the money for the I-75 campaign has come overwhelmingly from out of state.

Consider the top four contributors: Peter Lewis, chairman of the Progressive Corp., a high-risk auto insurer in Ohio, $40,000; the Tides Foundation, a San Francisco promoter of left-wing causes, $30,000; the American Civil Liberties Union, $27,303; and the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization outfit in Washington, D.C., $17,500.

These are not people concerned primarily with the interests of Seattle people, but with pushing toward legalization generally. It is their right to do that, but they should do it openly and in the forum where this issue belongs: Congress. Not here.