Wash. could become first state to OK pot sales

By Gene Johnson

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Oct. 11 2012 3:41 p.m. MDT

—Public use or display of marijuana would be barred.

—No marijuana facilities could be located near schools, day cares, parks or libraries.

—Employers would still be able to fire workers who test positive for pot.

—It would remain illegal to privately grow marijuana for recreational use, though medical patients could still grow their own or designate someone to grow it for them.

—It would be illegal to drive with more than 5 nanograms of THC, the active ingredient of cannabis, per milliliter of blood, if the driver is over 21; for those under 21, there would be a zero tolerance policy.

There would be no legal effect on medical marijuana dispensaries. However, it could have a political effect, Holcomb said. If recreational pot sales are allowed, prosecutors and investigators might take a more critical look at whether those operations are truly serving sick people.

Organized opposition comes from a group of medical marijuana patients who object to the DUI standard and say that if people can't grow their own, it's not really legalization at all.

Other public health and some law enforcement officials also oppose it, even if they haven't raised any money.

Mitch Barker, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, said his organization is concerned about increasing availability of marijuana, especially for teens, and the difficulty of enforcing the DUI provisions.

The initiative's biggest financial contributor is Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis, who has given more than $1.5 million. Lewis also contributed to Washington's medical marijuana campaigns in 1997 and 1998.

Other donors include New York-based Drug Policy Action and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.

The former head of the FBI in Seattle and both candidates for King County sheriff have voiced support.

Voters like Terry Lavender, a retired 61-year-old from Woodinville who used pot decades ago, say they're intrigued by the idea of being able to walk into a state licensed store and buy marijuana.

"I enjoy a bit of scotch, I enjoy a beer, so maybe I would," Lavender says. "But that's not my motivation for doing this. My motivation is to stop locking people up."

Johnson can be reached at https://twitter.com/GeneAPseattle

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