The ACLU supports marijuana legalization and will continue to work toward that goal. However, we will not be supporting I-1068 because it does not provide a responsible regulatory system.
We believe that full marijuana legalization will be accomplished only through implementation of a controlled regulatory system. Marijuana should be placed under controls that not only remove criminal penalties for adult marijuana use but also address the public's concerns about health and safety. It is unrealistic to regulate it less than tobacco or alcohol.
We're aware that some believe that I-1068's passage would force the legislature to adopt such regulations in 2011. However, the ACLU isn’t willing to support an incomplete initiative in hopes that the Legislature will fix it. We believe that when seeking support of such an important and complicated issue, the public should be presented with a carefully considered and well-vetted proposal.
Further, our public opinion research indicates that while a large majority of Washingtonians support reducing the penalty for adult possession of marijuana from a crime to a civil penalty, support for legalization is less solid. And those who do support full legalization understand that “legalization” means treating marijuana similarly to alcohol – taxing and regulating it. Passing an initiative that does not provide for any regulation would be distinctly difficult.
A negative vote on the initiative would be a significant setback for our ongoing reform movement. Failure to pass an ambitious “marijuana legalization” initiative sends the message that legalization is not what the public wants, deflates our activists, and discourages new constituencies from joining the push for much-needed reforms.
We are sorry that the initiative was drafted and advanced without collaboration with the many organizations that have been pursuing responsible drug policy reform. The ACLU and others have been working for years to address the harms flowing from our failed marijuana laws and to implement legislative reforms. A successful legalization campaign will require input from all of these organizations on strategy development, legislative drafting, and coalition-building. That hasn’t happened here.