from the Seattle Times, Thursday, August
millionaire boosts marijuana-initiative drive
Seattle Times Olympia bureau
- A group that wants marijuana to be as legal and readily
available as whiskey says it has secured financial
support from a retired Microsoft millionaire to help put
an initiative before legislators and perhaps voters next
Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp says
it already has received $110,000 from the Seattle
software programmer, whose identity it declined to reveal
at a news conference yesterday.
group said it plans to release the benefactor's name next
month, in compliance with state
campaign-finance-disclosure requirements. A spokesman
said the millionaire has pledged $200,000 more to ensure
the campaign can pay a professional firm to collect the
180,000 signatures needed by the end of the year to
submit Initiative 229 to the Legislature.
lawmakers approve the initiative, it would become law.
But the Oregon-based sponsors expect the Legislature to
ignore the measure, which would mean it would be referred
to voters in November 2000.
initiative, dubbed the Cannabis Tax Act, calls for
marijuana to be sold only in state liquor stores, and for
state licensing of farmers who grow it. It's considered
one of the most ambitious marijuana-legalization efforts
in the country.
urging everyone to come out of the closet and support
this effort," said Paul Stanford, the group's
executive director, who said he smokes marijuana
said he is setting up an office in Seattle's University
initiative's substantial financing might give it the
momentum that has been missing from past legalization
initiatives in Washington that failed to qualify for the
ballot, said Allen St. Pierre, executive director for the
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
with almost no money, grass-roots organizers working on
marijuana reform have done pretty well," said St.
Pierre, who is based in Washington, D.C. "But they
don't have good record-keeping and sometimes will not
have crossed every T and dotted every I.
this kind of money makes it possible to have
professionals on hand."
Brine, spokesman for Secretary of State Ralph Munro, the
state's chief elections officer, said the dollars would
likely help the cause.
always said the key ingredients for a successful ballot
initiative campaign are, first, an idea or issue that has
people angered or interested. The second is a network of
people, and the third thing is money," Brine said.
more you have of the third thing, the less you need of
the first two."
Campaign for Restoration and Regulation of Hemp is
sponsoring a similar initiative in Oregon, Stanford said.
With $15,000 in contributions, the campaign said it
already had collected more than 13,000 signatures as of
is a 1982 graduate of The Evergreen State College, a
former letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service and a
former importer of hemp fabric.
Washington initiative may attract support in Seattle and
other urban areas, Stanford said, but likely will
struggle in Eastern Washington.
going to be tougher there, but when you look at it, all
the facts are on our side," Stanford said, citing
medical research that shows marijuana can be beneficial
in treating some conditions, and statistics that show
most pot smokers are employed. "We think the only
way to lose this is if voters aren't educated."
will be difficult to secure support from politicians
(Gary) Locke has supported the medical use of marijuana,
but he does not believe the recreational use of the drug
is appropriate," said Locke's spokesman, David Chai.
Brad Owen, a crusader against drugs, is sure to denounce
the initiative, said his aide, Nathe Lawver.
say they are confident the measure, if passed, is crafted
in a way that will stand up to any court challenge.
their proposal could raise millions for state coffers.
Under the initiative, 90 percent of marijuana-sale
revenues would go to the state general fund, 8 percent to
drug-treatment programs; 1 percent to a drug-education
program for school children; and 1 percent to finance a
committee to promote industrial hemp fiber.
initiative also might clear up some of the uncertainties
surrounding a medical marijuana initiative that passed
last year, Stanford said.
allows qualified patients, with documentation from their
doctors, to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana. But the
law is silent on how patients who can't grow their own
might get marijuana, because selling and distributing the
drug is illegal.
initiative also would:
the sale of marijuana to adults over 21 and allow the
state to tax it.
farmers to grow industrial hemp without a license.
doctors to provide cannabis through pharmacies for
say it also will protect children. "We will take the
lucrative marijuana market out of the black market, where
children and substance abusers often control it
today," the campaign's literature says.
statewide survey about risky behavior in grades six,
eight, 10 and 12 indicated marijuana use has risen
significantly among all but sixth-graders.