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Washington Marijuana Legalization and Regulation, Initiative 502 (2012)

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Initiative 502
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Type:State statute
Referred by:New Approach Washington
The Washington Marijuana Legalization and Regulation, Initiative 502, was on the November 6, 2012 statewide ballot in Washington as an Initiative to the Legislature, where it was approved.

The proposed measure legalized the production, possession, delivery and distribution of marijuana. The initiative regulated the sale of small amounts of marijuana to people 21 and older. According to reports, marijuana farms and food processors would be licensed by the Washington State Liquor Control Board.[1][2]

Additionally, the measure made it illegal for a motorist to have more than 5 nanograms of THC (an active ingredient of marijuana) per milliliter of blood in their system.[3]

The initiative was supported by a group called New Approach Washington.[4] It was sponsored by John McKay, former U.S. Attorney, according to the filed petition. Additional sponsors included: Kim Marie Thorburn MD, Peter Holmes, Rick Steves, Robert Wood MD, Roger Roffman and Salvador Mungia.[5]

On January 27, 2012 the Washington Secretary of State's office verified that supporters had collected sufficient signatures to qualify the measure for the statewide ballot. Since the measure was an Initiative to the Legislature, it was first sent to the Washington State Legislature for consideration. The legislature took no action, leaving the measure to be sent directly to the statewide ballot for a vote.[6][7]

Election results

See also: 2012 ballot measure election results

The following are official election results:

Washington Initiative 502
Approveda Yes 1,724,209 55.7%

Election results via Washington Secretary of State's website.

Text of the measure


The summary of the measure read:

AN ACT Relating to marijuana; amending RCW 69.50.101, 69.50.401, 69.50.4013, 69.50.412, 69.50.4121, 69.50.500, 46.20.308, 46.61.502, 46.61.504, 46.61.50571, and 46.61.506; reenacting and amending RCW 69.50.505, 46.20.3101, and 46.61.503; adding a new section to chapter 46.04 RCW; adding new sections to chapter 69.50 RCW; creating new sections; and prescribing penalties.[8]



I-502 supporters submit petitions for Washington's 2012 ballot.
Photo credit: Washington Secretary of State's office
  • The main group in support of Initiative 502 was New Approach Washington.
  • According to New Approach Washington, sixteen state lawmakers stated support for the measure. These state legislators included:[9]

State Representatives

State Senators


  • Former U.S. Attorney John McKay said, "The enormous demand for marijuana in the face of criminal penalties, which has been in existence for 70 years, is spinning off enormous profits for drug cartels, for gangs, for drug dealers. We are strategically, way, way out of position in law enforcement by allowing the American marijuana demand and market to fund those much more serious activities."[10]
  • In an op-ed published in The Seattle Times in November 2011, Katrina Pflaumer, a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington; Robert Alsdorf, a lawyer and retired state Superior Court judge; and Anne Levinson, a former Municipal Court judge and former deputy mayor of Seattle all announced their endorsement of Initiative 502. "Decriminalizing marijuana would allow our state and local governments to refocus limited police and court resources on more important priorities than arresting, jailing and trying adult marijuana users. It would redirect hundreds of millions of dollars that are currently flowing to criminal organizations each year to legitimate businesses. It would restore respect for our laws and law enforcement. And it would decrease the disproportionate criminalization of people of color who have historically been harmed most by the existing laws," said the editorial.[11]
  • Charles Mandigo, former Special Agent in Charge of the Seattle FBI office, said, "I do not support or condone the use of marijuana. Rather, I think it is time for us to try a regulatory approach that frees criminal justice resources for more appropriate priorities and strikes a better cost-benefit balance than the strategy we’ve been pursuing for the past forty years."[12]
  • Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson stated: “We should regulate and tax [marijuana] like alcohol and tobacco instead of propping up black market profiteers. We have better uses for our police, courts, and jails.”[13]

Campaign contributions

According to reports, as of December 2011, the campaign raised an estimated $1.1 million with contributions from Peter Lewis, ex-CEO of Progressive Insurance ($250,000), philanthropist Harriett Bullitt ($100,000), philanthropist Floyd Jones ($50,000) and co-director of Seattle International Foundation Bill Clapp ($25,000).[14][15]



  • Some opponents took issue with the fact that the initiative, if approved, would have made it illegal for a motorist to have more than 5 nanograms of THC (an active ingredient of marijuana) per milliliter of blood in their system. Opponents argued that THC levels vary depending on the body's tolerance, which could have put medical marijuana patients at greater risk of arrest.[3]
  • Other opponents argued at the time that even if approved, the law would be pre-empted by federal law. Instead, some argued that the state should eliminate all state penalties related to marijuana.[3]
  • Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna stated about the initiative: “I oppose it and think it’s going to fail at the ballot...Once we open the door to all kinds of marijuana, with use by all kinds of people, medical marijuana users will be swept up."[16]

Media endorsements

Endorsements of Washington ballot measures, 2012


  • According to the Seattle Times: "Everyone involved in medical cannabis should support Initiative 502. It does not offer unregulated freedom; the people of Washington are not ready for that. We believe they are ready to bring marijuana above ground to license it, tax it and regulate its sale and use. Initiative 502 asks for that. It is a step forward."[17]


See also: Polls, 2012 ballot measures
  • An Elway Research poll released in July 2011 found that 54 percent of surveyed voters support I-502, while 43 were opposed and 3 percent were undecided. A total of 408 registered voters were surveyed.[18]
  • An Elway Research poll released on January 4, 2012 found the proposed measure supported by 48 percent, while 45 percent were opposed and 7 percent were undecided. The poll surveyed 411 likely voters and had a margin of error of +/- 5 percentage points.[19][20]

     Position is ahead and at or over 50%     Position is ahead or tied, but under 50%

Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided Number polled
July 2011 The Elway Research 54% 43% 3% 408
January 2012 The Elway Research 48% 45% 7% 411

Path to the ballot

See also: Initiatives to the Legislature (Washington)
Washington State Elections Division employee counts petition sheets submitted by I-502 sponsors
Photo credit: Washington Secretary of State's office

Initiatives to the Legislature, if certified, are submitted to the Washington State Legislature at its next regular session in January. Once submitted, the Legislature must take one of the following three actions:

  • The Legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people;
  • The Legislature can reject or refuse to act on the proposed initiative, in which case the initiative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election; or
  • The Legislature can approve an alternative to the proposed initiative, in which case both the original proposal and the Legislature's alternative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.

A minimum of 241,153 valid signatures were required to submit the proposal to the state legislature for consideration. The Washington Elections Division recommended at least 320,000 signatures in order to account for duplicate or invalid signatures.

According to the Washington Secretary of State's office, supporters said they planned to submit petitions on December 29, 2011 at 10 a.m.[21] Alison Holcomb, the initiative's campaign director, reported that an estimated 340,000 signatures were collected as of December 20, 2011 with additional signatures expected by December 29.[1]

On December 29, 2011 an estimated 354,608 petition signatures were submitted with the Washington Secretary of State's office. However, supporters announced plans to submit an additional 10,000 signatures by December 30. The signature verification process was scheduled to begin January 9, 2012 and was expected to take a few days.[22]

On January 27, 2012 the Washington Secretary of State's office concluded, using the random sample method, that sponsors had nearly 278,000 valid signatures. Rejected petitions were thrown out either because names were not found in the registered voter database, a signature was missing or did not match the one on file, or the petition was a duplicate. The error rate was 21.73 percent. According to state officials, the average error rate was 18 percent.[23]

The Initiative to the Legislature first went to the Washington State Legislature for consideration. Since no action was taken on the measure, it then headed to the statewide ballot for a public vote.[7]

See also

Suggest a link


External links

Additional reading


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Seattle Times, "Marijuana legalization initiative to turn signatures next week," December 20, 2011
  2. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Marijuana measure headed for ballot?," December 20, 2011
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Associated Press, "WA pot legalization signatures submitted to state," December 29, 2011
  4. The Seattle Times, "Pro-pot campaign gets big names, deep pockets," November 4, 2011
  5. Washington Secretary of State, "Proposed Initiatives to the Legislature - 2011," accessed December 27, 2011
  6. KPAX, "WA initiative to legalize pot certified, will be going to Legislature first," January 28, 2012
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hawaii News Daily, "Washington Voters to Decide Marijuana Legalization," February 10, 2012
  8. Washington Secretary of State, "Initiative 502," July 8, 2011
  9. Bain Bridge View, "Sixteen state lawmakers endorse initiative to legalize marijuana," May 2, 2012
  10. MyFoxSpokane.com, "Former U.S. Attorney endorses initiative to legalize marijuana," November 16, 2011 (dead link)
  11. The Seattle Times, "Sign Initiative 502 to put marijuana legalization before state Legislature," November 11, 2011
  12. New Approach Washington, "Former Head of Seattle FBI Office Endorses Initiative to Legalize, Tax, and Regulate Marijuana," November 14, 2011
  13. Seattle Times, "Libertarian presidential candidate endorses Washington marijuana legalization," March 19, 2012
  14. Stopthedrugwar.com, "Washington Marijuana Initiative Gains Support," November 15, 2011
  15. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Marijuana initiative — up, up and away," December 28, 2011
  16. Seattle Politics, "McKenna takes pot shots at marijuana initiative," accessed March 27, 2012
  17. The Seattle Times, "Medical-marijuana dispensaries should get on Initiative 502 bandwagon," September 7, 2012
  18. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "High Backing for Legalized Pot in Washington State Poll," July 6, 2011
  19. Associated Press, "Poll: Wash. voters split on legalizing marijuana," January 4, 2012
  20. The Seattle Times, "New poll shows voters split on legalizing marijuana," January 4, 2011
  21. The Olympian, "I-502 signatures on the way for marijuana legalization," December 20, 2011
  22. Washington Secretary of State's From Our Corner blog, "Marijuana measure petitions roll in," December 29, 2011
  23. Washington Secretary of State's blog: From Our Corner, "Marijuana Initiative 502 certified to Legislature/ballot," January 27, 2012