Legalize it, Dems say

Washington Democrats want to legalize marijuana, but they favor keeping liquor under the firm control of the state.

For better or worse, that’s the take-home message from a contentious round of voting Saturday at the state Democratic Convention.

By a painstaking tally of 314-185, delegates voted to overrule their party’s executive committee and endorse Initiative 1068, which would effectively legalize the sale and use of marijuana. The executive committee had decided to make no recommendation on the measure.

One opponent said candidates might find it awkward to stand behind legalization — although the party platform calls for ending the “war on drugs and “subjecting use of marijuana and hemp to reasonable regulation and taxation.”

A show of credentials clearly indicated that a majority favored endorsing legalization. But someone called for an actual count — and that’s where things got messy.

State Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver, was presiding over the convention. The count dragged on for close to a half hour, as staffers moved through the hall trying to tally the upraised arms pro and con –again, and again, and again.

It didn’t help that Pridemore first asked proponents to stand up, then to sit down, then to keep their credentials held high even if their arms were getting sore. “That’s why we have two arms,” he said at one point.

Fortunately, the final count seemed to defuse the situation.

The vote to uphold the party executive committee’s recommendation opposing privatization of liquor stores went more smoothly. Initiatives 1105 and 1007 both call for turning liquor sales over to the private sector.

Opponents predicted privatization would lead to increased drunkenness and access to liquor by minors. “This is a move by business to maximize profits,” one delegate said. What’s more, he said, 1,000 state employees would lose their jobs, and the state would lose up to $100 million in revenue.

But a proponent of liquor sale privatization declared, “This initiative will be good for small businesses. We are referred to by Republicans as socialists. We are socialists as far as liquor stores are concerned.”

— Kathie Durbin

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