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Originally published Monday, August 20, 2012 at 12:04 AM

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Get real about initiative to legalize marijuana

Seattle's Hempfest, held over the weekend, is tolerated because Seattle residents don't agree with marijuana prohibition. Voters should approve Initiative 502 to legalize marijuana.

Seattle Times Editorial

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Revelers at Seattle's Hempfest celebration of marijuana were offered a debate by supporters and opponents of Initiative 502. We hope they were sober enough to think through it.

For the first time, it is possible to envision an end to marijuana prohibition. That is a huge change -- a huge possible change that hasn't happened yet. But prohibition replaced by what? Any new regime will have to be acceptable to a majority of people -- and not just a majority of revelers at Hempfest or voters in liberal Seattle.

This fall, voters in Washington are being offered Initiative 502. For marijuana activists, it probably is not the ideal offer. The proposed law limits possession of smokable marijuana to one ounce. It has a blood-THC standard for driving a car, and no such standard exists now. It has heavy taxes. It doesn't allow private growing of marijuana plants except by medical patients.

All this has occasioned bellyaching among cannabis users.

Our advice: Get real. Voters in Washington are just now ready, for the first time, to allow marijuana to be grown, processed and used for recreational purposes.

They are not ready to do this without a standard of intoxication for driving, or without licensing and regulation of people in the business, or without taxing marijuana like tobacco and alcohol.

Hempfest revelers should remember: Your festival is tolerated because Seattle people don't agree with prohibition.

Nonetheless, state law still says possession of marijuana, except for medical patients, is punishable by fines and imprisonment.

In November, voters will be offered a law that declares possession of a limited amount of marijuana by adults is no longer punishable by fine or imprisonment.

Think carefully before rejecting the offer.


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