U.S. Senate candidate Michael Baumgartner, a Republican state senator from Spokane, announced his endorsement of Initiative 502 on Wednesday. The measure, he said, would create a tightly regulated and taxed system that would allow adults 21 and over to possess limited amounts of marijuana.
Washingtonians will be voting for I-502 on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
Baumgartner's opponent, Democratic incumbent Maria Cantwell of Edmonds, has not taken a stance on the initiative.
From a news release from Baumgartner campaign director Alison Holcomb:
“I’ve seen firsthand the nexus of international drug trafficking networks and terrorism, and I believe our drug policy is a national security concern. I think I-502 is a responsible step towards bringing the illicit drug economy out of the shadows and into the open,” said Sen. Baumgartner, who was an advisor to the Afghan Counternarcotics Team in Helmand Province after working as a U.S. State Department Officer in Iraq.
“Drug cartels around the world are only gaining from our continued approach of criminalizing marijuana for adults. By failing to regulate and tax marijuana in a responsible manner, we are allowing billions of dollars to flow into their coffers. And American lives are put in danger at home and abroad,” he said.
Under I-502, an estimated $1.9 billion in tax revenue would be raised in the next five years. Significant further savings would come to local law enforcement from no longer arresting, prosecuting, and jailing adults who possess marijuana.
“Our criminal justice system will have additional time and resources to shift to focusing on organized criminal groups that are trafficking drugs across our border, rather than pursuing adults for personal use of small amounts of marijuana. By licensing small business to grow, process, and sell marijuana, we enable police instead to devote its resources to dealing with serious crime. And we will generate funds that would be dedicated to health care, public health education, and youth use prevention programs.”
I-502 has been endorsed by a broad array of individuals and organizations prominent in the state’s law enforcement, medical, legal, and civic communities.
“As a life-long resident of Washington, I am proud to stand with a distinguished list of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and medical professionals in supporting a new approach for Washington state,” said Baumgartner. “I think this is a responsible step forward. Our state should be a national leader in reforming failed policies for marijuana.”