Sensible Washington Files New Pot-Legalization Initiative, Despite Plea to Hold Off

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Undeterred by last year's failure to pass a marijuana-legalization initiative, and a plea by national pot-advocacy groups to hold off until next year for another effort, Sensible Washington is filing a new initiative this afternoon with the Secretary of State. Douglas Hiatt, chair of the organization, says a lot of things are different this year. And activists in the group didn't want to wait.

Hiatt says various national activists, including Rob Kampia at the Marijuana Policy Project, asked him to wait until a new coordinated legalization effort could get off the ground in 2012. Peter Lewis, chairman of the insurance company Progressive and a funder of drug-reform causes, will then likely bankroll initiatives in several Western states, including Washington, Hiatt says he was told. The national activists also argued that legalization initiatives would have better luck in a presidential election year.

But Hiatt says that members of his group thought they were ready now. Last year, he says, the group had maybe 500 volunteers to collect signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot. That wasn't nearly enough to get the signatures they needed, but since then, Hiatt says, "thousands" of volunteers have stepped forward.

Hiatt also says he's going out of the gate with $50,000 already raised--$10,000 more than he got during all of last year.

The initiative itself is different from last year's. "It directs the legislature to adopt rules and regulations and, if appropriate, taxes at the earliest opportunity," Hiatt says. This, he contends, will forestall objections from the pro-regulation camp. Initiative backers can even point out that a pot regulation and taxation bill has already been submitted to the legislature, Hiatt says.

As Keegan Hamilton points out, the bill appears to be something of a pipe dream. Regardless, Hiatt seems pleased with this new trick of coming out in favor of pot regulation without having to deal with any of the complicated, legal issues that entails. "I'm able to have my cake and eat it too," he says.

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