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Why I Support Legalizing Pot
Written by John Brangwin
Wednesday, 09 November 2011 21:36
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Initiative 502 is currently gathering signatures.At its simplest, I-502 seeks to legalize marijuana and replace it with regulated sales.While I-502 may not be perfect, it would be a wise start.Through November, registered voters can sign I-502 petitions at our offices.For more on I-502, visit their web site at:



Our drug policy has clearly failed.  Punishing drug crimes has done little positive for society.  It has filled prisons with non-violent offenders, broken up families and allowed organized crime to flourish.  At the same time it has cost tax payers billions, if not trillions of dollars.




From 1920 to 1933 America had prohibition from alcohol.  It is clear, to me at least, that prohibition of alcohol was completely unsuccessful in any positive way.  Medical alcohol was allowed and often prescribed by friendly doctors.  Illegal sales continued in mass—it’s estimated that the U.S. had over 30,000 “speakeasies” during the height of prohibition.  American spending on alcohol actually increased during prohibition, and since sales were illegal, all of the spending went untaxed.  Liquor was illegally imported to the United States from our neighboring countries to the north and south.   Otherwise lawful citizens became criminals by making liquor in their sheds and homes.  Gangsters, like Al Capone, made millions.  Once flush with cash, crime syndicates continued to be strong for decades.  Enforcement ranged broadly depending on who caught you and where you were caught.  In some places the alcohol would be poured out and you’d be turned loose.  Other people were jailed or imprisoned.  Sometimes the police themselves were in on the illegal activities or turned a blind eye in return for a payout.



Does any of this sound familiar?  Marijuana pours in to the United States by the tons from Canada and Mexico.  People grow pot in garages, closets and outdoors in the boondocks.  Medical marijuana is legal in many states, including our own, and many people have prescriptions to use marijuana even though their medical issues may not be as serious as they describe.  Criminals profit greatly from marijuana being illegal.  It allows them to be flush with cash.  Often they use the cash to buy guns to protect their enterprise from other criminals or even the police.  And enforcement ranges from brutally harsh mandatory prison time in some instances to doing nothing in other situations.



Here in Washington, the City of Seattle, while not legalizing pot, has told the police to make it their lowest priority.  But a 2-hour drive away, in ChelanCounty, possessing pot is taken very seriously by the police.  And once caught, prosecutors seek convictions and even get mandatory jail time, often making a criminal out of a young person who previously had no criminal history at all.  Our courts enforce Washington’s arcane law requiring a 24-hour jail sentence for possessing even the smallest amount of marijuana.  And to make things worse Federal law takes away financial aid for drug convictions.



I simply see no sense in it.  None at all.  It’s time to take a new approach.  That’s why I support I-502.  If I-502 does not gather enough signatures or isn’t voted into law, I at least hope the legislature will take action to decriminalize simple possession of marijuana and lower or remove all the mandatory sentences and enhancements.


John Brangwin is a partner in the Wenatchee law firm of Woods & Brangwin, PLLC and concentrates on defending those accused of DUI and other crimes.  He is rated “superb” by Avvo, an attorney rating firm.  The office is located at 517 N. Mission, where I-502 petitions are available for signature.



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