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Initiative 595: Regulated Tolerance

The citizens of Washington state will have a chance to make real progress in the area of drug law reform if the Washington Citizen's for Drug Policy Reform (WCDPR) is successful in getting Initiative 595 on the state General Election ballot this fall. It will be necessary to gather more than 181,000 signatures by July 2, 1993, to guarantee a spot on the November 3rd ballot.

Initiative 595 would allow adults to use marijuana in the privacy of their homes while providing strict controls to keep it out of the hands of those under the age of 21. Unlike legalization or decriminalization, this concept of "regulated tolerance" would prohibit any advertising, public use, or promotion of marijuana which is so common with "legal" drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. It is not the intent of WCDPR to encourage or condone the use of any substance.

The concept of regulated tolerance proposes a workable solution to the problem without the staggering costs of prohibition (it is estimated that this approach would generate approximately $250,000,000 for Washington state). It will also free up limited police resources to be better applied to the problem of serious violent crime. No longer will those suffering from AIDS, glaucoma, cancer and the many diseases which respond therapeutically to marijuana have to endure suffering or risk imprisonment in order to obtain the medicine they so desperately need.

The goal of regulated tolerance of marijuana is to remove the criminal penalties for its use while destroying the black market which flourishes as a natural result of prohibition. Unlike cocaine, heroin, and other drugs, marijuana can be produced safely and cheaply at home by anyone who chooses to do so, ending the necessity to make contact with the operators of the black market who often provide the nexus to other, more dangerous substances. As most marijuana users will attest, they have no interest in using dangerous substances like heroin or cocaine.

The safety of marijuana has long been established by exhaustive tests by government agencies as well as private concerns. Marijuana is so safe, in fact, that the DEA's own chief Administrative Law Judge proclaimed it to be "one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man," and "far safer than many of the foods we commonly consume." This statement was made after months of hearings, during which testimony and evidence was presented both in favor and against the safety of marijuana. During this period, the DEA could not even convince their own Administrative Law Judge that marijuana was dangerous. In the respect that there has never been a reported death attributed to marijuana toxicity, it is far safer than even aspirin.

We as a nation, have experimented with "zero tolerance" over the past decade with less than desirable results. By the DEA's own estimation the drug war has succeeded in stopping only a tiny fraction of the drugs coming into this country with no prospect of better results in the future. We have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on this "war" against our fellow citizens only to see the blackmarket flourish, a diminution of our constitutional rights, our jails packed to overflowing and a burden on our budget that threatens to send us into bankruptcy. On the other end of the spectrum, attempts at outright legalization have met with stiff opposition from those who fear that approach would not offer sufficient safeguards.

Passage of initiative 595 will provide our government a golden opportunity to "cease fire" in the drug war with respect to marijuana and declare an honorable truce with the hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens who desire nothing more than to be left alone to enjoy what limited time we all have on this earth. For more information contact: WCDPR, P.O. Box 1614, Renton, WA. 98057, (206) 226-4164.

[Editors Note: Of special interest to Washington prisoners is the fact that Initiative 595 contains provisions to give amnesty to prisoners currently imprisoned for marijuana related crimes such as growing, possession, etc. Efforts to undercut this country's draconian drug laws need to be supported because they are one of the leading causes of prison overcrowding and have led to the criminalization of huge segments of our communities. Mobilizing people in support of projects like this initiative also make them mobilizable for other, similar projects in the future and serves an important public interest of educating the public and giving the people a voice in a criminal justice policy debate where currently only the most backward and reactionary sectors of society are being heard.]

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