By Steve Elliott at Toke of the Town
Cowardly career politicians, out of touch with their own constituents and terrified of being branded "soft on drugs," have once again dropped the ball on decriminalizing marijuana.
Senate Bill 5615, which would have freed up Washington's criminal justice resources by making adult possession of small amounts of marijuana an infraction carrying a fine, rather than a misdemeanor carrying mandatory jail time, failed to get a vote in the Washington State Senate Tuesday.
"This means efforts to address adult marijuana use through a civil, public health approach, rather than a failed criminalization approach, have died for the 2010 legislative session," said Alison Holcomb, drug policy director, ACLU of Washington.
"The ACLU of Washington is disappointed by the Legislature's failure to pass this bill despite strong and consistent public support for it," Holcomb said.
According to Holcomb, studies in those states demonstrate no increase in marijuana use among adults or youth, results echoed in jurisdictions like Seattle, where adult marijuana possession has been the lowest law enforcement priority since 2003.
"In 2008, police and prosecutors filed 12,428 cases involving misdemeanor marijuana possession by adults in Washington courts -- using funds that would be far better spent addressing other priorities, including violent crime," Holcomb pointed out.
"The Washington State Office of Financial Management estimated that SB 5615 and its companion HB 1177 would have made approximately $15-16 million in scarce public safety dollars available to combat true public safety threats, and would have directed significant resources to sorely needed, state-funded treatment and protection services," Holcomb said.
"We applaud Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, prime sponsor of SB 5615, for her tireless efforts to advocate for sensible reforms grounded in reason, science, and fiscal responsibility," Holcomb said. "And we hope our Legislature will get the electorate's message in 2011 and pass marijuana decriminalization legislation."
"It's time to stop wasting money on arresting and jailing adults for marijuana use and invest instead in proven prevention and treatment programs," Holcomb said.