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Originally published Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 8:07 PM

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Baumgartner backs marijuana initiative

Michael Baumgartner, the freshman state senator who is challenging Democrat Maria Cantwell for her U.S. Senate seat, has endorsed Initiative 502, which would make retail sales of marijuana legal.

Times Washington bureau

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As best I can tell, Senator Cantwell's position translates to this: I wish this issue... MORE
It will be very interesting to see how this story plays out. If a Republican can take... MORE
When Wa. State votes to legalize MJ we will need a strong advocate in Wa.D.C to stand... MORE


WASHINGTON — Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Michael Baumgartner on Wednesday endorsed Initiative 502 to legalize retail sales of pot, calling the war on the illicit drug a matter of national security.

The freshman state senator, who is challenging Democrat Maria Cantwell, worked several years ago for a State Department program in Afghanistan to help farmers grow wheat instead of opium poppies.

He said his experience in Helmand province — and watching the U.S.-funded efforts to eradicate Mexican drug cartels — convinced him criminalizing marijuana for adults only enriches traffickers and takes law-enforcement efforts from pursuing organized crime.

It was eight months ago that the Legislature decided to leave it up to voters whether to legalize and tax the sale of pot to those 21 and over. Baumgartner said he waited until now to endorse the initiative in part to see how it would propose to guard against minors buying pot and other issues.

Asked for Cantwell's position, spokesman Kelly Steele emailed this: "While I remain a strong supporter of our state's medicinal marijuana laws, I don't believe it should be legalized for recreational purposes based on concerns expressed by law enforcement and the current drafting of the initiative. Whatever the result, I will honor the will of the voters' decision in November."

Both gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna, also oppose the initiative.

Kyung Song: 202-383-6108

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