The Debate in Washington State Over Legalizing Marijuana Is Off-Track

I've recently returned to MPP's headquarters in the District of Columbia after attending the Seattle Hempfest in the other Washington. If you didn't already know, Hempfest is the largest marijuana-policy-reform event in the world, not to mention the second-largest event of any kind in Washington state. More than 150,000 people attended this year's event, which was spread out over three days.

Unlike the 20 annual Hempfests that preceded this one, this year's event included a real debate, which was whether marijuana users should vote for Initiative 502 -- the marijuana-legalization initiative that will appear on the November 6 statewide ballot.

If this seems odd to you, it should. This is the first time that Washington voters will have the chance to end marijuana prohibition, and yet some marijuana users -- although thankfully a small minority -- are screaming that voters should defeat the initiative and maintain prohibition, because the initiative isn't perfect enough.

We've heard this kind of argument before in other social change movements -- gun control, gun rights, abortion expansion, abortion reduction and so forth. So the fact that it's happening in the marijuana-reform movement is not surprising.

I spent a lot of time listening to smart people on both sides of the issue tell me their views. Toward the end of the Hempfest weekend, I concluded this is really just a matter of law, rather than needing to choose between clashing personalities or gleaning the future from a crystal ball.

So here is the cold analysis of Washington's current law versus the future law in Washington if Initiative 502 were to pass by a simple majority vote on November 6 ...


Because the goal is to keep the largest possible number of nonviolent marijuana users/growers/sellers from being arrested and dragged into the criminal justice system, my organization strongly supports the passage of Initiative 502.

And, by the way, we're joined by the Drug Policy Alliance, the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, and even the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.  And, just as importantly, the initiative was endorsed the day after the Hempfest by the Seattle Times, which is the largest newspaper in Washington state.

It's time to end the debate among anti-prohibitionists.  It's now time for all of us to work very, very hard to pass the initiative on November 6, in order to keep our friends and family out of jail.

This post is part of the HuffPost Shadow Conventions 2012, a series spotlighting three issues that are not being discussed at the national GOP and Democratic conventions: The Drug War, Poverty in America, and Money in Politics.

HuffPost Live will be taking a comprehensive look at America's failed war on drugs August 28th and September 4th from 12-4 pm ET and 6-10 pm ET. Click here to check it out -- and join the conversation.