Pro-pot Initiative 502 is starting to look unstoppable. The latest boost comes from a supporter as unlikely as John McKay . Actually, it's a longtime


Charles Mandigo, Former Top FBI Agent, Comes Out for Drug Legalization Effort

Pro-pot Initiative 502 is starting to look unstoppable. The latest boost comes from a supporter as unlikely as John McKay. Actually, it's a longtime friend of the former U.S. Attorney who's now backing I-502: Charles Mandigo, once the FBI's top agent in Seattle.

Like McKay, a Bush appointee, Mandigo comes from a self-declared "conservative background." While he doesn't like to give a party affiliation, he says "you can assume I'm not a liberal" given his 27 years in the FBI. During that tenure, he worked on marijuana busts, although not the kind of simple possession cases I-502 would affect.

Mandigo acknowledges that McKay brought him on to the 502 bandwagon, otherwise known as New Approach Washington, but says he was already sympathetic. "John knew it was something I would be willing to listen to," he says.

As McKay does, Mandigo cites the need to end the violent black market that prohibition feeds. But he also brings a libertarian bent to the issue, saying that the government is overstepping in telling people that "you as adults aren't capable of making good decisions." In addition, he assails the impact of drug laws on minorities, who are locked up far more often than whites for possession. With a felony on their record, "can they become lawyers, pilots, doctors?" he asks.

So why didn't he support Sensible Washington, the legalization effort pushed for several years before 502 came around? He says that effort didn't offer the "structure" that this initiative does, including regulations about where pot can be sold (only at licensed stores). "If you have someone selling marijuana at a street corner on 3rd and Pike, it's still a criminal violation (under 502)," he says.

"Let's look at it like we do alcohol," he says. Of course, the regulations on selling alcohol have just dramatically changed with the victory last week of Costco-backed Initiative 1183, allowing booze to be sold at grocery stores. Which raises a provocative vision about where pot legalization might one day go. "Yes, but we don't allow someone to manufacture alcohol in their bathtub and sell it on the street corner," Mandigo responds.

Mandigo is but the latest in a stream of endorsements for 502, including from philanthropist Harriet Bullet, former U.S. Attorney and Clinton appointee Kate Pflaumer and Ohio-based insurance executive and drug law reformer Peter Lewis. While McKay and Mandigo are big catches in terms of political credibility, Lewis, who pledged $200,000, is the campaign's biggest score financially. It's the kind of funding Sensible Washington was never able to achieve. And the massive raids yesterday on medical marijuana dispensaries, showing that the status quo has moved away from toleraance, may have unwittingly given 502 another shot in the arm.

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