Marijuana Initiative 502 a tough sell in Eastern Washington
Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Mon, October, 22nd 2012 by THCFinder
On a rainy Sunday in downtown Spokane, Rick Steves jumped on stage to evangelize for marijuana legalization.
The audience, at the Bing Crosby Theater, was not filled with the usual suspects for a pot rally. White-shoe attorneys sat near ministers. A grandmother, wearing a button opposing gay marriage, quietly feared for the grandson she says might be lost to the stuff.
Steves, the travel author and TV host with folksy charm, said he once was afraid to advocate for marijuana legalization in public, and so appeared as "Jerry" on a Seattle radio show about pot. Not anymore. "I feel like we are on the side of truth here," Steves told the crowd.
Steves' appearance was part of a traveling roadshow through red-state Washington on behalf of Initiative 502, which seeks to legalize marijuana. Conceived with Seattle sensibilities, the campaign must also appeal to values on the other side of the Cascade curtain to win on Nov. 6.
The campaign message in the 509 area code weaves conservative and libertarian themes into a liberal idea: Spend less to enforce low-level drug crimes and respect private adult conduct.
"Remember, it's not pro-pot; it's anti-pot-prohibition," Steves told the audience.
It's a tough sell, in part because as some voters said last week, they assume use would rise, and are uncomfortable with the idea of a state awash in legal pot.
A new poll of registered voters by the University of Washington finds I-502 winning statewide, 51 percent to 41 percent, thanks largely to strong support around Puget Sound. But in Eastern Washington, the measure trails with just 41 percent favoring it and 53 percent saying no.
Business leaders in the region have been mostly silent, but police have not.
In Yakima County, a hub for marijuana trafficking from Mexico as well as outdoor growing, Sheriff Ken Irwin is offended by what he sees as "hollow" arguments for I-502, which he believes would encourage drug use, especially among kids.
Mostly, he scoffs at I-502's argument that a legalized market would kneecap gangs controlling the marijuana black market.
"To think that by legalizing marijuana, the cartels would be out of business is just naive and absurd," Irwin said. "Criminals are criminals. They would find a way to undercut the price."
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