Will Marijuana Raids Be the New Normal if Pot-Legalizing I-502 Passes in Washington?

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Cannabis-rights activists who oppose the marijuana-legalization initiative I-502 do so for many reasons, including the notion that should the bill pass, the federal government will immediately preempt it with an injunction. So will the DEA raids that happened yesterday in western Washington be the new norm if I-502 passes?

The answer is perhaps not as simple as it might sound.

Alison Holcomb, drug policy director for the ACLU of Washington and one of the most-prevalent voices of New Approach Washington, the group that's pushing I-502, admits that there may be raids if voters pass the initiative. But she also says that that may be a good thing.

"How this plays out I think: we've got this Department of Justice memo where David Ogden says federal policy is we're not going to expend federal resources on those who 'are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws,'" Holcomb tells Seattle Weekly. "The bottom line is that if voters pass 502 it forces the conversation with the federal government. From a policy perspective, it puts the federal government in an increasingly difficult position."

Essentially Holcomb is arguing that by forcing the federal government to step in and interfere in state pot doings the full weight of public scorn for that action will force the feds to lay off and keep marijuana on the path of increasing legality.

Cannabis activist and attorney Dough Hiatt is the leader of the failed effort to pass a separate marijuana-legalization initiative. He disagrees strongly with Holcomb and has long fought against 502, saying it will accomplish nothing but enticing a "swift kick in the groin" to Washington state when the feds simply preempt the law.

Hiatt argues for the full repeal of all state laws relating to marijuana.

He says that if 502 passes dispensary owners may not see more raids, but that will simply be because there will be nothing to raid.

"What [Tuesday's] raids shows is exactly where the federal government is on this issue," Hiatt says. "What will happen if 502 passes is that the Department of Justice will come in they'll file an injunction and knock it out in one fell swoop. I don't think we'll see raids. They won't have to raid."

For now, at least, "they" apparently do have to raid. And frankly, there's no reason to think more of the same isn't on the way.

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