Reject marijuana initiative

If voters judge a ballot measure by its title, they might think Initiative 502 is solely about the freedom to smoke pot.

It's not.

This is actually a measure to regulate and tax marijuana. It operates on the principle that people who want to smoke pot will, so why doesn't the government take control of it and create a revenue stream.

For those who want to smoke pot, this measure allows adults to carry an ounce of the stuff -- legally.

But users should be leery about driving. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, stays in your bloodstream, and it's possible to test "high" under the initiative's legal definition long after the effect has worn off. So smokers should invest in a good pair of walking shoes or a bus pass.

This initiative also is about the state budget. Not only would marijuana be sold legally, it also would be taxed -- a couple of times. According to the state Office of Financial Management, a new 25 percent marijuana excise tax imposed by the initiative, combined with retail sales and B&O tax, will generate $582 million each year.

I-502 mandates that 40 percent of the new revenues go to the state general fund and local budgets, and 60 percent will be dedicated to substance-abuse prevention, research, education and health care.

For those concerned about kids having access to marijuana, here's a thought -- they already do. Proponents hope that I-502 would actually decrease marijuana use among teens by funding education efforts, much like the anti-tobacco campaign has done for smoking.

Legalizing marijuana also puts the black market for pot out of business. In theory, pot dealers are going to be looking for a new line of work.

These arguments almost persuade us to give pot a nod. Prohibition has cost taxpayers untold billions without reducing consumption. We hate to see the government continue to waste our money.

However, and in our mind it's a huge however, marijuana still is outlawed by federal law despite ballot measures this year in Colorado, Oregon and here.

Any state that legalizes marijuana will become a test case to challenge the feds. No one knows how that's going to go down, but it will certainly be expensive to find out.

Would the federal government turn a blind eye to our new industry, or will they shut it down? Feds already have raided marijuana dispensaries for medical users in parts of the state.

This path is rife with unknowns. The only certainty is that it will end up in court.

At a time when the state has a budget to balance and economies to grow, it seems foolhardy and shortsighted to add this to the "pot," so to speak.

The Tri-City Herald recommends rejecting Initiative 502.