Enrique Cerna.jpg
Enrique Cerna can make you feel better when you're sick.
Stepping out of your normal routine can provide a beneficial opportunity to look at something


What Debating I-502 In the Middle of the Day on KCTS 9 Looks Like

Enrique Cerna.jpg
Enrique Cerna can make you feel better when you're sick.
Stepping out of your normal routine can provide a beneficial opportunity to look at something in a different light. And a sick day, coupled with the KCTS 9 Vote 2012 debate series, provided just such an opportunity for me yesterday when it comes to Washington's Initiative 502.

*See also: Alison Holcomb: Pot Mama

Covering the raging debate surrounding I-502 for Seattle Weekly, which has largely juxtaposed the pot policy reform efforts of Alison Holcomb's New Approach Washington against the vehement anti-I-502 sentiments of marijuana activists like Doug Hiatt or Steve Sarich, it's easy to lose track of what's likely to end up being the question that ultimately decides the initiative's fate: Whether mainstream, scared, suburban types can be persuaded to support it.

(As we've noted on Daily Weekly, it's not something the New Approach Washington campaign is forgetting.)

I was out sick yesterday, which, along with some vomiting, meant some time spent on the couch and in front of the television. While this blog post could easily be about the alarming amount of times I saw local news replay the story of Danny Bonaduce getting bit in the cheek by a demented fan (Bonaduce: I've been shot and I've been stabbed ... this hurt worse.), instead I'll focus on an installment of the KCTS 9 "Vote 2012" debate program I stumbled upon. Yesterday at 1 p.m. Vote 2012, hosted by Enrique Cerna and Kim Abel, devoted a half hour to I-502, featuring Holcomb arguing in favor of I-502 and Kevin Sabet, a former Senior Advisor with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and current Director of the Drug Policy Institute and the University of Florida College of Medicine, arguing against it.

The program was a firm reminder that the debate surrounding I-502 isn't just about medical marijuana supporters and pro-pot types questioning (and sometimes demonizing) I-502 as a covert, malicious effort to jail anyone who's ever smoked weed and then driven a car. Across the many suburbs of our state, it's likely to come down to a much more predictable question: Is it actually safe to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana as I-502 prescribes?

This is what Holcomb and Sabet spent their half hour politely arguing about. And the simplicity of it all - in light of the infighting within the ostensibly pro-pot ranks - was at the same time boringly throwback and moderately refreshing.

Michael Clinard
Alison Holcomb
For her part, Holcomb stuck to stressing the deficiencies of Washington's current marijuana policy - saying it has failed our children and our communities.

Holcomb also downplayed budget impacts as a motivating factor for passage of the initiative, saying while there may well be some financial gain for the state associated with getting into the marijuana selling, taxing and regulating business (which the state Office of Financial Management has vaguely predicted, pending the outcome of the all-but-certain federal action), the real reason to vote "yes" on I-502 is to acknowledge that our current course of action simply isn't working, and is doing more harm than good.

As far as the feds go, Holcomb says we don't know what the reaction will be, and passing I-502 will, at the very least, force them to sit at the table with us and negotiate.

Kevin Sabet.jpg
Kevin Sabet
Sabet's argument, on the other hand, was made mainly by focusing on the perceived risks of marijuana legalization. These risks include more stoned people, more stoned kids, a stoned, unproductive workforce, and, of course, all around stonededness.

Sabet stressed that the federal government probably isn't going to be terribly cool with Washington legalizing pot and getting into the pot-selling business; a fact that's hard to argue with. Sabet also claimed any money the state reaps from becoming a pot dealer is going to be lost (and then some) to the money that will have to be spent battling the public scourge of increased marijuana use.

To Sabet, the risks of legalization outweigh the possible benefits, and if I-502 passes he expects public safety, kids, and the state as a whole to suffer. Saying anything that sounds too good to be true probably is, Sabet attempted to frame the debate around the question: Is the risk worth it?

Does that argument still hold water? That will be up for voters to decide next month.

Yesterday I was again reminded it's a pretty important one when it comes to the ultimate fate of I-502.

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