Pot: The Gateway Petition

Washington's marijuana-legalization initiative hasn't had any big-money backers, but it's gotten plenty of big-money help.

Mike Raupp works downtown.

Mike Raupp works downtown.

[NOTE: The organizers announced on Thursday that they don’t have enough signatures.]

In public comments earlier this month, the sponsor of a measure to legalize marijuana in Washington, I-1068, blasted labor-union giant SEIU for its last-minute decision not to help bankroll his signature-gathering campaign. Without the SEIU’s money, Philip Dawdy lamented, he’d be stuck relying on an all-volunteer squad of signature-gatherers, leaving his bid for a place on the November ballot a long shot.

The initiative process in Washington “is clearly tilted,” he complained, “…in favor of big moneyed interests.”

And as the Friday deadline for submitting signatures approaches, Dawdy is indeed at a disadvantage. Among the many mundane obstacles to going all-volunteer is the Secretary of State’s requirement that petitions be on 11×17 paper, which makes it impossible for most normal people to print out a petition at home, Dawdy notes. Big-money campaigns can also pay professional services to “scrub” their petitions of bad entries (fake names, unregistered voters, etc.) before submitting them to the state, which helps to get the initiative certified more easily.

Yet it’s also true that big-moneyed interests have helped the pot campaign big-time. The SEIU, for example, is paying to put signatures on the marijuana petition—and so are Costco, liquor distributors, and other big players in this year’s initiative game. Just not directly.

To see the subsidy in action, you only had to pay a visit to the two guys whose photo was on the front page of The Seattle Times last week, Mike Raupp and Chad Towe. They’d set up tables on Pine Street downtown and covered them with “Legalize” T-shirts, caps, and buttons. If you stopped by, they were indeed happy to take your signature for I-1068. But they’re not strictly volunteers. They’re itinerant signature-gathering professionals from California who are being paid to push initiatives such as I-1098, which is being heavily backed by SEIU and would put an income tax on the wealthy. But pot serves as a handy lure.

“[Legalization] is the hottest issue in America right now,” Towe told the Weekly. “People are aware of the issue, and then they come over and we can talk to them about other issues as well.”

Another professional signature-gatherer working at Seattle Center recently explained that he brings the pot petition along, even though he’s not being paid for it, because it can be a good way to get people to stop—especially younger people, who might not be so interested in, say, privatizing workers’ comp (I-1082). Pot, in other words, is the gateway petition.

“It makes sense for the paid petitioners to have 1068 with them because it helps them with everything else,” notes Dawdy, a former Seattle Weekly staff writer. “We’ve helped Costco, Tim Eyman, the BIAW, people trying to overturn the candy tax”—all of whom are pushing initiatives this year. “I think even the anti-immigrant group [Respect Washington!, which sponsors I-1056] was using it.”

So while the initiative game may be tilted, it’s also marked by a kind of symbiosis—pot has helped draw an audience for other initiatives, and big-money backers have in turn provided Dawdy’s campaign with free labor.

Raupp and Towe happen to be true believers in the cause, Dawdy says. But as the final signature-gathering days wind down, the problem for his campaign is that without the prospect of payment, some of the other pros with filled-out I-1068 petitions might not have sufficient incentive to turn them in.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

This screenshot from Auburn Police Department bodycam footage shows an officer about to fire his weapon and kill dog on May 13, 2022.
Auburn police shoot dog, and owner claims it wasn’t justified

See videos of attack as well as bodycam footage of officer firing at dog.

File photo.
King County Council approves creation of Cannabis Safety Taskforce amid rash of dispensary robberies

The multi-agency task force will cooperate to find ways to improve safety in the cash-only industry.

Screenshot from ORCA website
New ORCA system launches for regional transit across the Puget Sound

Overhaul includes new website, mobile application and digital business account manager.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII (Episode 4): Foster mom wants accountability in Auburn cop’s upcoming murder trial

Special podcast series explores Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

Diane Renee Erdmann and Bernard Ross Hansen. Photos courtesy of FBI
FBI arrests Auburn couple after 11-day manhunt

The couple was previously convicted for fraud and skipped sentencing on April 29.

Screenshot from Barnes and Noble website
Cover art of books that KSD Librarian Gavin Downing says have been under fire: “Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts),” by Lev A.C. Rosen, “If I Was Your Girl,” by Meredith Russo, and “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” by George Matthew Johnson.
Kent middle school librarian wins intellectual freedom award

Gavin Downing refused to keep ‘silence in the library’ amid attempted book banning and censorship.

t
Kent elementary school teacher accused of using racist language toward student

River Ridge Elementary instructor placed on administrative leave by Kent School District.

FILE PHOTO: King County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
Dozens of King County Sheriff’s Office employees left jobs instead of getting vaccinated

This added on to the existing number of vacancies in the department.

Joann and Allan Thomas are flanked in court by their attorneys Terrence Kellogg (fourth from the right) and John Henry Browne (far right) on May 10, 2022. Judge Richard Jones is presiding over the case. Sketch by Seattle-based artist Lois Silver
At drainage district corruption trial, it’s a tale of dueling conspiracies

Allan and Joann Thomas are in trial in Seattle on fraud charges.

King County logo
King County audit finds backlog of property tax exemption applications for seniors, people with disabilities, and disabled veterans

The auditors found that program expansions lead to three-times the amount of applications.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson (Screenshot from video press conference)
AG announces $518 million settlement from pharmaceutical companies over their role in opioid crisis

Most of the settlement money will be used to mitigate the opioid crisis in Washington.