Prominent Washington State Law Enforcers Explain Why Marijuana Should Not Be A Crime

Washington is one of three states that will take up a ballot initiative on Tuesday to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana. Support for the measure has been particularly widespread in the state, including among law enforcement officials, who have touted the initiative as a necessary fresh alternative to years of expensive arrests and prosecutions that have not achieved public safety or public health goals.

Among those who strongly support the initiative are Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and former Seattle FBI Special Agent in Charge Charles Mandigo. ThinkProgress spoke with Mandigo and Holmes in Seattle. Watch it:

Holmes ran for office in 2009 on a platform to stop prosecuting marijuana possession. But he says simply not enforcing a bad law is not good enough:

59% of the cases that were pending when I took office on Jan. 1, 2010, were against African Americans. That in a city with a 7% African American population. The only achievement if you will of marijuana prohibition in this case has been to make sure that we become the number one jailer nation on the planet, and it’s only made certain that only criminals are getting wealthy from the sale of marijuana. […]

Prohibition has failed in every legitimate public safety goal. Youth have ready access to it. The concerns about driving while impaired are rampant.

Mandigo said he had a gut reaction against marijuana legalization up until about a year ago, when he realized that the measured approach of Washington’s proposal, I-502, eliminated the hand-to-hand transactions that law enforcers are simply not able to address.

I don’t see that it increases in public safety risks. In fact, arguably it diminishes them because if people are making purchases in a regulated outlet … if they’re taking enough financial gain away from the gangs that are selling it, then you’re eliminating the competition and turf wars within these groups that have violence. You’re eliminating drive-by shootings, the unintended consequence of drive-by shootings. … What’s driving all of this isn’t marijuana. It’s the money. You know, if you can address the money factor then you are addressing the problem.

I-502 proposes to:

  • Remove criminal penalties for possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana
  • Authorize marijuana dispensaries and producers registered with the state
  • Impose an age limit of 21 years of age for possession and purchase
  • Tax purchases at a rate of 25%, with proceeds going substance-abuse prevention and education
  • Establish strict punishments for driving under the influence of marijuana

Law enforcement officials who support it include:

  • John McKay, former U.S. Attorney, Western District of Washington
  • Kate Pflaumer, former U.S. Attorney, Western District of Washington
  • Charles Mandigo, former Special Agent in Charge, FBI’s Seattle office
  • Pete Holmes, Seattle City Attorney
  • King County Sheriff Steve Strachan
  • Norm Stamper, former Seattle Police Chief
  • Sgt. John Urquhart, a former narcotics officer and King County Sheriff candidate
  • Hon. Robert Alsdorf, former King County judge
  • Hon. Anne Levinson, former Municipal County judge