When it comes to names, the Washington Coalition of Coalitions is about as baffling as they come. An umbrella group for community drug and alcohol prevention coalitions -predominantly made up of federally funded Drug Free Communities programs - the agency works as a lobbying group and resource for these agencies to share tools and information.
Probably not alone in the revelation, I wasn't even aware the Washington Coalition of Coalitions existed until earlier this week, when a quote from Vice President Martina Coordes appeared in a Spokesman-Review story detailing a recent Washington State Liquor Control Board marijuana forum. (Hat tip to erstwhile Seattle Weekly writer Keegan Hamilton for drawing my attention to it via Twitter.)
In the story, Coordes is quoted as saying at the forum, "I know we joke tonight, but we don't want our kids using marijuana. I worry that I'll be watching the Super Bowl commercials with Budweiser and marijuana companies competing for the funniest ones. Our kids are our future. Let's not dumb up our kids."
To many, including me, the quote likely came off as questionable. We already have beer ads. Why would weed ads be worse? Isn't this just fear mongering?
Graham-Squire attempts to clarify, saying in a perfect world the Washington Coalition of Coalitions would like to see neither form of advertising. He says ads for alcohol are already covertly geared to attract underage drinkers, and the practice has real, negative impacts when it comes to our kids. But since booze companies are massive corporations with insanely deep pockets and expansive teams of lawyers, entirely preventing the advertisement of alcohol has proven impossible.
But with the dawn of state-regulated legal marijuana in Washington, Graham-Squire says things could be different with weed. That's what the Coalition of Coalition would like to see, pressing for an all-out ban on marijuana advertisement.
"Marijuana is already seen by a lot of youth to be favorable," says Graham-Squire. "The only reason for advertising is to increase demand."
In terms of the passage of I-502 by voters, Graham-Squire says the Coalition of Coalitions was disappointed. But now that legal weed is a fact of life the agency is hopeful that the issue of underage marijuana use can be brought into full public view and constructive conversations can occur.
"From a prevention standpoint, it's not good prevention policy," Graham-Squire says of I-502. "It poses a lot of challenges."
"I haven't met anyone who's in favor of locking people up for marijuana offenses," he continues of I-502's virtues. "There were some good things about the initiative."
Now that I-502 has passed, Graham-Squire says one of the Coalition of Coalitions' fears is that the money the initiative is supposed to direct toward treatment and prevention will get diverted by the legislature into the state's general fund - as has been seen in the past with the state's massive tobacco settlement. He calls such a scenario a "huge concern."
"I don't see what's stopping them from doing the same thing," Graham-Squire says. "People see [I-502] as a cash cow, and are already lining up."
But on to more serious matters ... like the Coalition of Coalition's name.
"We could probably use some discussion on improving the name," Graham-Squire concedes.