Like Seattle, Tacoma marijuana initiative would limit pot arrests

Oct 25, 2011

Tacoma ballot Initiative 1 directs police to give the lowest priority to enforcing minor marijuana laws.  If the Initiative passes, arrests would be unlikely in Tacoma for  possession of 40 grams or less of marijuana.

Sherry Bockwinkel, who has run a lot of statewide initiative campaigns, is volunteering her time to run the  Tacoma marijuana initiative campaign.  She believes Tacoma police have better things to do than bust people for pot.

"They don’t need to be going after people whether they’re patients or adults that are making a decision to use it recreationally. Forty grams or less is just a waste of police time,” she said.

Need questioned

There is no organized opposition to the Initiative.  But police and prosecutors, including Deputy Tacoma Prosecutor Jean Hayes, question the need for the Initiative.

“Prosecution of marijuana cases, 40 grams or less, is already a low priority. There's not much less of a priority that we could make it really," Hayes said.

Still, 223 people were charged with minor marijuana possession in Tacoma last year.  Hayes points out that's far fewer than were arrested for DUI and domestic violence. 

But Initiative 1 supporters contrast Tacoma with Seattle, which didn't charge anyone with minor marijuana possession in 2010. In 2003,  Seattle Initiative 75,  which Tacoma Initiative 1 is a copy of, was passed by voters.

Dispensaries funding it

Most of the financial support for the Tacoma initiative comes from medical marijuana dispensaries. 

Campaign chair Bockwinkel is a medical marijuana patient and says one goal of the Initiative is to make sure patients with pot aren’t harassed by law enforcement. 

Ultimately, she and many other supporters want to see the full legalization of marijuana. This, says Bockwinkel, is a tiny step in that direction.

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