To their great credit, the organizers of I-502 in Washington, have submitted the necessary signatures to the Secretary of State to assure its place on November’s ballot. The measure operates by folding cannabis taxation and regulation into the familiar scheme now used for the regulation and taxation of commerce in alcoholic beverages.
Producers may be licensed to grow and sell wholesale lots of marijuana only to licensed processors, who may sell it only to retailers regulated by the liquor control board. Growing, having and distributing marijuana, heretofore crimes, are declared by the measure not to be a criminal or civil offense under Washington state law if done so in accordance with the license. Producers and processors may not be retailers. A tax of 25% is due upon transfer of product from one licensee to another.
What’s most significant about the measure is not its particulars. Rather, it is that approval by the voters will force a long-overdue showdown with the feds, forcing the federal government to defend prohibition. The contenders will not be the DEA vs. dispensaries. The contenders will be the White House (by default of Congress) vs. the State of Washington. I-502 is a referendum on prohibition. For the first time ever, Washington voters will have an opportunity to step into the privacy of a voting booth and declare what they really think about the marijuana laws.
The demise of prohibition is in plainer view.