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Rick Steves To Standing-Room-Only Crowd In Vancouver WA: Legalize Marijuana


rick steves washington i 502

Rick Steves On The ‘New Approach To Marijuana Tour’

Last night, travel author and PBS star Rick Steves brought his A New Approach to Marijuana Tour to Vancouver, Washington, in support of Initiative 502, the measure to legalize marijuana.  Steves was joined by Charlie Mandigo, the former head for the FBI’s Seattle field office, and Alison Holcomb, the chief petitioner of I-502.

After Holcomb introduced the measure and the speakers, Mandigo spoke first.  ”There is no way law enforcement can address the tens of thousands of hand-to-hand street drug transactions,” Mandigo explained as he illustrated how I-502 would free up the police resources expended on the small-time marijuana trade.  ”This is a difficult topic to bring up with law enforcement, because they’ve been working on drug crimes for so long, but after I-502 there will still be plenty for them to do,” he reasoned, detailing how people growing and selling outside of I-502-s regulations would still need policing.  Mandigo also addressed the fears some parents have about their kids and marijuana.  ”For students in school it is easier for them to purchase marijuana than tobacco because clerks ask for their ID.”

But the star of the show, Rick Steves, held court for most of the presentation.  He began by explaining how the number crunchers in Olympia are estimating a half billion dollar annual windfall from legalization.  Besides the financial impact, Steves explained the social impact in terms of prohibition’s disproportionate effect on children and minorities.  ”The Children’s Alliance unanimously endorsed I-502,” he offered for those who worry “what about the message we’re sending to children?”  Steves also said, “The NAACP endorses I-502 because they have realized that prohibition of marijuana is doing more harm to the black community than marijuana ever could.”

After expressing the toll of prohibition in terms of “over 800 thousand arrests a year, 90% for possession only, and tens of thousands dead across our southern border, Steves lit into the common opposition talking points in favor of maintaining the status quo:

  • Regarding the so-called “gateway theory” that pot use leads to drug use: “In Europe, they discovered that the only gateway in marijuana is its illegality because that forces marijuana purchasers out into the streets where other drugs are for sale.  It’s widely acknowledged that the Dutch who tolerate marijuana have half the rates of marijuana use among teens and adults than we do.  And in Denmark, where they’ve bulldozed some of the marijuana markets, they’re finding an increase in hard drug use.”
  • Regarding so many kids in drug treatment for marijuana: “You cannot judge how many kids need treatment by how many kids are in treatment.  When a kids is caught with marijuana, he’s given a choice of serious punishment or attending treatment; guess which he’s going to choose?”
  • Regarding legalization leading to increased teen use and stoned drivers: “We have seventeen states that have instituted medical marijuana laws and there is no indication that we have more kids using marijuana or more incidence of stoned driving.  When I-502 passes, we may see a slight uptick at first in marijuana use, but then it will most likely level off, because people who want to smoke marijuana already do.”

Steves also took a look at the various forms of marijuana legalization on the ballot this November, indicating that the results from Washington, Colorado, and Oregon will greatly inform future attempts to end prohibition.  ”With I-502, we have the most conservative legalization plan.  Colorado’s plan is a bit looser; they will allow some limited home growing and they don’t make any changes to the DUI law.  Oregon’s is the most far-reaching; it sort of treats marijuana like tomatoes.”  Steves’ conclusion is that given an electorate nervous about marijuana legalization, the conservative, incrementalist approach is most likely to win.  ”We’re polling at 57% – 58%, Colorado’s going to be close, and Oregon doesn’t have a chance.”

At the end of the speeches, Holcomb took questions from the audience that had been written down on cards.  Only one questioner seemed to be opposed to the measure, complaining of the per se DUID standard.  ”I’m a medical patient,” the man protested, “and when I had myself tested, I blew 480 nanograms!”  Holcomb did her best to explain to the man he must have been talking about inactive marijuana metabolites, like those found in a workplace urine test.  Active blood THC, the standard in I-502, only spikes into the 100ng – 200ng immediately during smoking of marijuana.  Undeterred, the man continued on, warning of how police will now just profile marijuana users, pull them over, test their blood, and lock them up.

Mandigo and Steves jumped in to the fray to back up Holcomb.  The three explained that nothing about the police procedures involved in DUID stops changes with I-502: police still need to stop you, observe impairment, perform field sobriety tests, take breathalyzers, and arrest you before any blood draw can be taken.  The man objected, saying cops could “pull you over for a broken license plate light”, but Holcomb explained that equipment failures like that are not probable cause to believe someone is impaired.  ”The police will never know what the result of your blood draw is,” she explained, “and the only way your scenario happens is if police decide to start breaking the law.”

At the conclusion of the night it seemed as if the crowd was very much in agreement with Rick Steves on the need to pass I-502.  Campaign volunteers told me later that the Vancouver event, the second stop on the tour, had gone much better than the premiere in Olympia, where antagonists from the No on I-502 campaign headed up by medical marijuana entrepreneur Steve Sarich heckled the speakers and tried shouting them down.  At one point one of the opposition pushed the state representative who had appeared, forcing the rep to grab the man by the lapels and push back.  Washington State Troopers had to escort several protesters away from the Olympia event.

Republished with special permission from the National Cannabis Coalition


About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.


  1. Apparently Arthur went straight to the emergency room complaining of a damaged wrist. Lol. Can’t wait to see THAT frivolous lawsuit.

  2. Lol. You really don’t get what a joke you are to everyone Sarich. You are not an important person. You are not a good person. You are just another mendacious sociopathic nuisance who will be quickly forgotten. You’re good for a laugh now but not much else.

  3. You had free speech at the capitol and your group messed it up. We only started “shoving our signs in your faces”, as you so defensively hold, after your people started flushing our speakers out with outrageous amounts of noise and began occupying the center of the room. You point fingers at us but, in fact, the No group at the capitol was compromising our free speech.

    I agree with Russ. None of your doomsday prophecies have had any substance whatsoever. Our support and strength grows and the No group gets louder. Wonder why this is happening?

    The Yes-Group should hold a red tie celebration in seattle if this passes on the 6th.

  4. Fortunately all the up-coming venues are being held in private areas and the anti-democratic tactics of Sarich, the lead clown and media whore, will not be tolerated.

    Sarich filed a law suite, which was ignored, to actually prevent I-502 from appearing on the ballot. The New York Times claims that Sarich and this group represent medical marijuana users in Washington state. He actually speaks for producers and not the consumers. if you are a medical cannabis user, are you going to allow Sarich to conscript your voice to promote his interests?

  5. “But instead of allowing both sides to speak, they called in the
    Washington State Patrol to start intimidating everyone on the NO side
    and “advising” them to leave, far before anyone had said one word.”

    I was there. Here is my account. Steve Sarich’s goal is to sabotage I-502. Check out the pictures at the Pierce County NORML page. To kick off the Rick Steves Barnstorming Tour heading around the state to promote I-502, the initiative to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana in the state of Washington, New Approach Washington provided a luncheon and planned to have some words from Rick Steves, State Representative Hunt, and campaign director, Alison Holcomb.

    There was no problem when about a dozen of the No on I-502 group came in. We expected that they would display their signs, pass out some info, make a few speeches, be interviewed by the press, and then join in for some sandwiches and chips. Democracy in action. Civil discourse under the dome of the state capitol.

    When NORML Advisory Board Member Rick Steves spoke to speak it started. Arthur West, revealing the ugly underbelly of the No on I-502 group, began droning “Booooo” at full volume that sounded like bovine emanations–made somewhat comical with the added visual. A twerpish youth (Steve Mohr) who runs an Olympia dispensary where they sell medical marijuana at over $4000 a pound, placed himself in front of Rick Steves and joined West by shouting, “No on I-502” about a hundred times in succession. Their disruptive chorus was augmented by shrewish comments being hurled from the balcony by Serena Haskins, apparently and oddly representing a group called “Washington Moms for Marijuana.” Sarich joined in, shooting vocal barrages and calling Rick Steves and Alison Holcomb liars. Others entered in with a running dialogue of shouted comments including one who boldly proclaimed her math illiteracy in decrying the 75% on I-502 marijuana. (A tax, by the way, that does not apply to medical cannabis.)

    Though he had a microphone, Rick Steves was not able to be heard. State Rep Hunt’s remarks were also unable to be heard because of the din of shouting by the No on I-502 group. Poppy Sidhu went behind the podium and ended up getting into a physical tussle with the Mr. Hunt. During Alison Holcomb’s remarks the WSP officers, who had given repeated warnings, started to escort the major disrupters from the rotunda.

    Serena Haskins threw a major fit and had to be half carried, demanded to be arrested, and then whined that she had been “pinched” by the WSP officers. Arthur West won the prize. He too demanded to be arrested and the WSP hauled him out. He reentered and began the same shenanigans and was dragged out again. This time he sat and refused to move. Unfortunately, in the process his pants sunk about eight inches revealing a butt crack to rival the stoutest plumber. They hauled him out again and he did not return.

    The New York Times was there as were many film cameras. They did not see the No on I-502 group coming to the capitol building to express their alternative opinion. They did not see them coming to dialogue with those with whom they disagree. They witnessed and recorded a group claiming to represent medical marijuana users coming with one sole purpose–to prevent those who had gathered to listen from hearing and to silence those who would come to speak from being heard. And in doing so they used the tactics of thugs and bullies.

  6. The Get Sarich Conspiracy on

    Do you really think people are scared of you?

    We’re laughing at you Steve, because you’re a delusional, pathetic moron.

    Your undermine your platform every time you open your mouth.

    Go away.

  7. Level? It won’t be level until your little cadre of NO levels with people and admits you are only motivated by your cash registers – and to hell with your “valued” customers’ freedom.

  8. Who cares if they wet their pants? I’m just trying to make sure we have a level playing field for free speech. Do you have a problem with that?

    There will be entertainment value, however. Them trying to sell bullshit, unsuccessfully, is always amusing.

  9. “We’ll be looking forward to seeing more of this Barnum & Bailey style dog and pony show as they travel across the state. Just where will be a big surprise for them….but they won’t be suspecting it when it happens. You can’t stop free speech.”
    Ooooh… I’m sure you’ve got em shaking in their boots! So you are going to put on your clown shoes and provide more free entertainment?

  10. Good post, Russ. No one has their finger on the pulse of marijuana reform better than you.

    Just as the battle-cries of the past were: “Remember the Alamo!” and “Remember the Maine,” we need to go into November 6th with:


    Don’t let freedom be cheated again!

  11. YES ON I-502 NOV.6th- STEVE SARICH OUT OF BUSINESS THE DAY AFTER!!! Never forget these traitors, who they sided with, and what they voted for; -your continued incarceration over profits-

  12. Righteous rant Russ!
    Seriously though, you could have been a rich lawyer. But thank the cannabis creator you are where you are.

  13. Just one, Steve. Find me the one person who:

    – in fourteen years of medical marijuana
    – in 100,000 patients
    – in millions of miles driven


    – drove a car
    – got pulled over by police
    – was given field sobriety test and failed
    – was arrested, breathalyzed, and blood drawn
    – had blood draw come up >=5ng/ml active THC
    – had that admitted into evidence at DUID trial
    – had no evidence of alcohol

    and got an acquittal.

    Just one, Steve. That’s all you need to prove your doomsday scenario.

    Just one, Steve. You’ve had months and months to find him or her.

    You can’t do it. If you could, you would have by now. Your 17-year-old was a nice try, but as everyone who watched the piece could see, she was driving just fine.

    That’s the fatal flaw in your doomsday scenario. You are trying to get people to believe simultaneously:

    a) People above 5ng are not impaired and drive just fine
    b) People above 5ng are going to be pulled over by cops

    So why b if a? Sure, the broken taillight or the profiling cop. But then people realize, hey, that’s what can happen right now! And the cop who pulls me over now can bust me for the eighth in my pocket. And the cop who smells weed now can harass me further. And the cop who thinks I’m impaired now can do all the same sobriety tests and blood draws, but if I go to trial now I can be convicted of DUID with less than 5ng or even on inactive metabolites.

    I enjoy watching your delusions at work. An alleged supporter of marijuana rights sitting alongside a drug cop arguing for the continuation of small possession marijuana arrests, bravo. And dropping a seedling in front of him? Classic! I bet the cops love having you on their side; they so worry about being taken seriously.

    Seriously, keep it up. Every state rep who gets pushed, every idiot heckler in red you send out, every time people see the most stonerish arguing that people who smoke pot all day every day and get to possess 15 plants and a pound and a half of marijuana and make bank writing medical permission slips and selling prohibition-priced marijuana are upset they might get DUIDs when they’re driving with blood over 5ng active THC… every move you make pushes the YES lever from a senior citizen, a soccer mom, a hippie hater, a Microsoftie, a conservative, a person of faith, or just a fan of PBS who considers “Hmm, Rick Steves likes this and that pot grower who got shot up in the news a while back hates it.”

    My celebration doesn’t begin until Dec. 6th, when marijuana consumers caught with less than an ounce – even patients! – are no longer arrested. Then the next celebration is a year later when I compile all the arrest stats showing all your doomsday scenarios to be the fevered propaganda of rent-seeking malcontent with delusions of competence.

    P.S. “Reprehensible Russ”, that’s the best you’ve got? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqqbnqeVsB4 What a waste of an opportunity.

  14. Holcolm is lying, as usual. Of course a cop can pull you over for a broken tail light or anything else they want. They don’t have to pull you over for driving impaired.

    Once they pull you over they have to give you a field sobriety test and determine that you’re not impaired by alcohol. Once that’s accomplished, a simple written statement by a DRE (drug recognition expert) that he, in his “expert opinion”, thinks you looked stoned, and that is now prima facia evidence for probable cause.

    This is why the Washington State Patrol has requested $2 million dollars, under 502, to train ALL of their officers to be DRE’s. This way there’s no way you can beat the probable cause issue.

    Are cops “breaking the law” by stating that they thought you were stoned? No….because that will now be their “expert opinion”. Would cops actually LIE to convict a young black man in Yakima County of per se DUID driving? Do bears shit in the woods?

    There would have been no conflict at the Capitol Rotunda yesterday if this had actually been a “free speech event”….which is what their permit said. But instead of allowing both sides to speak, they called in the Washington State Patrol to start intimidating everyone on the NO side and “advising” them to leave, far before anyone had said one word. We asked if we were being forced to leave and they reiterated that we were just being “advised” to leave. I was the first one they targeted, so I know exactly how this played out.

    I informed the officer that, while I appreciated his “advice”, that I would be staying right where I was, as the law allowed. They got increasingly more aggressive, as did the YES people who began sticking their signs in our faces. The NY Times has one such photo today and the videographers have a LOT of footage on exactly what happened. This will be all over the news soon, so lying about what happened won’t be very effective for the YES crowd.

    We’ll be looking forward to seeing more of this Barnum & Bailey style dog and pony show as they travel across the state. Just where will be a big surprise for them….but they won’t be suspecting it when it happens. You can’t stop free speech.

    This is just one giant $5 milion dollar info-mercial to sell the latest strategy from the office of the Drug Czar….and it’s not going to work. Sorry, Alison. No one but NORML and reprehensibe russ are buying the crap you’re selling. You’ve lost every single debate….unless I missed one. Tonia Winchester, from NAW, told an audience in Whidbey Island that active THC only stays in your system for 1-2 hours…..not the 30 days that NIDA says. You better start schooling your second string better.

    See you on the road! And I hope you have that new job lined up after Nov. 6th when you lose this race. Think of how embarassing it will be to have spent $5 million dollars and lose to a group of patients who have raised less than $7,000. Explain to your handlers how you lost when you claimed you were polling at 58%….and you spent millions of their money in the last two months….and still lost.

    Steve Sarich
    NO ON I-502 Campaign

    P.S. There will be a black tie party here in Seattle to celebrate our win on Nov. 6th.

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