New Pot-Legalization Effort Announced in Washington State

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It's not election season in Washington until someone tries to get a marijuana-legalization law passed. Leading that effort for 2012 appears to be the freshly formed group New Approach Washington.

The group just announced a signature-gathering effort that they're hoping will lead to a full-legalization initiative on the ballot next year.

If passed, Washington's new governor--whoever it is--would be powerless to veto the law as Gov. Chris Gregoire did to the medical-marijuana reform bill SB 5073, which was passed by the legislature earlier this year. The law would give the state Liquor Control Board power to regulate and sell marijuana to anyone 21 years old or older.

Still, considering that states with relaxed medical-pot laws are already under siege by the federal government, there seems little doubt that a rogue state legalizing pot would tempt a much larger federal backlash.

New Approach Washington spokesperson Alison Holcomb didn't really have a good answer for getting around Uncle Sam, but she essentially told us that not knowing how a legalization bill will play federally isn't a good reason not to try to pass one. "I take President Obama at his word that marijuana reform deserves a serious debate. We want to have that debate," she says. "I have faith that our federal government respects state rights to try a new approach to what clearly has been decades of failed marijuana policy."

The group's effort is sponsored by Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington John McKay, state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, and past president of the Washington State Bar Association Mark Johnson, among others.

They'll hold an event announcing the effort today at 11 a.m. in the Seattle Public Library.

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