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Legalization Group Plans 2013 Initiative To Repeal Marijuana Laws


Sensible WashingtonSensible Washington Announces 2013 Initiative To End Cannabis Prohibition

Sensible Washington has announced plans to launch another marijuana law reform initiative to repeal criminal and civil penalties from the state code. Unlike the group’s previous attempts, the 2013 effort is intended to appeal to a broader voter base, by making the legal age 21 and over – with an added caveat – extending the juvenile code to 21 for cannabis-related offenses. This would allow for marijuana convictions to be expunged from adult records, alleviating the life-altering harms of a conviction, such as denial of future employment and educational funding opportunities.

This November, voters will decide the fate of the “legalize, tax, and regulate” Initiative 502. Sensible Washington contends that it’s not written to withstand a federal challenge. A March 2012 report from the Congressional Research Service states: “Under the Supremacy Clause, state laws that conflict with federal law are generally preempted and therefore void”. The belief that the tax and regulate portions of I-502 will not survive a federal challenge is also shared in a report from the Washington Office of Financial Management: “To the extent that the federal government continues to enforce its criminal laws related to marijuana, it would impede the activities permitted by this initiative… Consequently, the total amount of revenue generated to state and local government could be as low as zero.”

Sensible Washington asserts that the 5ng limit for driving under the influence of cannabis (DUIC) – in addition to a zero tolerance limit for those under 21 – is not supported by science, and will result in convictions of people not guilty of actual impairment. This will be particularly detrimental to medical cannabis patients, who will not be exempted from the new limit.

Sensible Washington maintains that the repeal model of ending prohibition eludes federal preemption. This method was used in 1932 to successfully end alcohol prohibition via Initiative 61 “Repeal of the Bone Dry Act“. I-61’s success established a legal precedent for repeal as a valid path to legalization. Sensible Washington’s initiative removes cannabis from Washington state’s list of controlled substances. The federal government would have no means to preempt it, as they don’t have the legal authority to reinstate criminal sanctions at the state level.

Regardless of the outcome of I-502, individuals will continue to be prosecuted for cannabis-related offenses, which is what Sensible Washington hopes to curtail with their 2013 campaign. If they are successful in collecting enough signatures and passing their initiative in the general election, cannabis will become legal for responsible adults 21 and older by December, 2013.

Sensible Washington is currently running several city-level petitions for low-priority enforcement and federal non-cooperation. They plan to continue those efforts with hopes of making special election ballots next Spring. More information can be found on their web site at www.sensiblewashington.org.


1. Congressional Research Service – Medical Marijuana: The Supremacy Clause, Federalism, and the Interplay Between State and Federal Laws < http://assets.opencrs.com/rpts/R42398_20120306.pdf >

2. Washington Office of Financial Management – Initiative 502 Fiscal Impact through Fiscal Year 2017 < http://www.ofm.wa.gov/initiatives/2012/502_fiscal_impact.pdf >

3. Initiative 61 Repeal of the Bone Dry Act < http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=9995 >

4. National Academy of Sciences – Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base < http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?booksearch=1&term=marijuana&record_id=6376 >, and < http://www.mpp.org/reports/common-questions-about-marijuana.html >


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Johnny Green


  1. I’m pleased to hear of continue effort in 2013 initative w/o needless fighting in 2012 initative just like Californians have tried to do several initatives & please hand off to show repect for others difference of opinions, so the best vote will win, if not work to next initative for satisfication & fairness. Legalization is like decriminalization w/o criminal record & for those who violate regulation, will be civil offense!

  2. Everybody, just vote ‘Yes’ on all legalization initiatives and there won’t be anything to debate!

  3. Hi Tom, besides concerns regarding the initiative language, title and political viability, if Initiative 514 were to pass, cannabis would remain a schedule 1 controlled substance under state law. Sensible Washington stands for the full repeal of prohibition, which means a removal from this list. Given that neither I-502 or I-514 would accomplish this, we are continuing forth with our goal of ending prohibition using a method legally designed to withstand a federal challenge. The move to 21+ with the juvenile jurisdiction change is an alteration meant to improve our chances of reaching a more mainstream voter base.

  4. Republicans4Legalization on

    This is a good strategy. They’re not telling people not to vote for I-502 but came up with a way to make legalization fool proof. Successful passage of I-502 will show the American people and the federal government that legalization is possible for all states. It will make a historic precedent but may not stand up to the supreme court due to preemption. Passage of both will be a monumental victory.

  5. Shouldn’t the title be “Group announces plan to keep people from signing to legalize marijuana this year.” Currently I-514 is collecting signatures to put the ending of civil and criminal penalties for adults on the ballot in 2013. Why is Sensible Washington trying to get people to wait until next year to sign, just a week before Hempfest?

    Shame on you Johnny Green for reporting on this instead of I-514.

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