John Keatley Steve Sarich
The state of Washington has estimated passing Initiative 502 this November could generate $564 to $606 million in the first full year of marijuana legalization. But not everyone's buying it. Not surprisingly, longtime medical marijuana crusader turned anti-I-502 activist Steve Sarich is one of those people.
John Keatley Steve Sarich
By law, the OFM has until Aug. 10 to issue its official opinion on what the economic impacts of approving I-502 would be for Washington, though with uncertainty about how the federal government might react, coupled with the unprecedented territory of marijuana legalization, representatives with the OFM say the estimates may not get much clearer than what we already have.
As part of an attempt to bring down I-502, Sarich and the NO on I-502 group he acts as spokesperson for have mounted a legal challenge, filing a lawsuit claiming the OFM has failed to deliver on its obligation under state law to provide voters with an accurate picture of what the initiative will cost. Sarich says obvious expenditures like training police to deal with marijuana DUIs and defending the state from predictable legal challenges from the feds have been purposefully left out of the equation -- part of what he calls a "smoke and mirrors" effort to make I-502 more appealing to voters.
"Is there any doubt the feds are got to sue the state?" says Sarich, who list a number of reasons he doesn't support I-502, including the pot "cartel," it will create for the state Liquor Control Board. Sarich also questions assumptions I-502's approval will end the marijuana black market.
"How can you say the impact to the state is going to be zero?" Sarich says of I-502's cost. "I don't know you can do that. It's a lie."
Julie Murray, the Director of Legal and Legislative Affairs for the OFM says her office instructed agencies to use the ambiguous phrase at the heart of Sarich's lawsuit, "Non-zero but indeterminate," because it's impossible to predict anything more accurate with uncertainty surrounding how the federal government will react to I-502's approval.
Murray says the OFM is required by statute to assess, as best possible, the revenue, cost, expenditures and indebtedness an initiative will bring the state, and that's what they've tried to do.
"Sure, there's not a lot of detail," Murray says. "That's what we came to. ... The impact is really indeterminate.
"It's because we don't know what the federal government is going to do."
So far, however, that's an answer that Sarich and NO On I-502 aren't content with.
"What we want them to do is their job," says Sarich. "I firmly believe [the OFM is] in violation.
"We want a new fiscal note," Sarich continues. "We're absolutely not going to give this up. [The estimates the OFM has provided] are so far off it's incredulous."
For her part, Murray doesn't sound terribly worried.
"It's not even due until August 10," Murray says of the OFM's official fiscal note for I-502. "Whether I've met my burden or not ... call me after August 10."
Find the preliminary fiscal note generated by the OFM for I-502 on the following page ...