Editor’s note: Today’s guest editorials originally appeared in The Seattle Times and The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
Threatening moves by Attorney General Jeff Sessions against states that legalized marijuana are ill-informed, destructive and a distraction from far more important issues.
Sessions last week rescinded two Obama-era U.S. Department of Justice memos that had established a fairly hands-off approach to legalized medical and recreational marijuana.
The memos provided clarity for federal officials by prioritizing enforcement of serious offenses such as interstate trafficking, cartel involvement and distribution to minors.
They also helped reduce conflict between archaic elements of federal drug law and state laws that increasingly legalize and regulate marijuana.
President Donald Trump should explain how this apparent move toward heavy-handed federal regulation and attack on state rights squares with his governing philosophy.
Trump’s administration must also provide its rationale to the public and guidance to law enforcement and a marijuana industry that’s approaching $20 billion a year in regulated sales.
Uncertainty and the risk of regressing to prohibition — a failed policy that sapped law-enforcement resources, disproportionately targeted people of color and failed to rein in consumption — should prompt Congress to advance proposals to regulate, rather than prohibit, marijuana.
Recreational use is now legal in eight states including Washington, Oregon and California, and medical use is legal in 29 states. Additional states have decriminalized possession of small quantities or authorized use for particular illnesses.
State and local officials are right to defend enlightened marijuana laws that reflect the will of the people.
This is precisely the sort of policy challenge that made former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan a wise choice for Seattle mayor.
Seattle and Washington will no doubt play a large role in any legal response by Western states to the Sessions move, but this can’t distract from more pressing issues.
Dreadful shortcomings in Washington’s mental-health system, for instance, cry out for the impassioned response and spotlight that Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson gave to Trump’s latest offense.
Regional officials must resist being accomplices in Trump administration misdirection efforts. It appeared to use this hot-button issue to divert attention from new allegations of Trump misbehavior and investigations into Russian meddling.
Sessions is wrong to pull the nation backward on marijuana policy.
Regardless of the motive and the timing, it’s terrible governance to sow uncertainty and confusion for states, a nascent industry, law enforcement and tens of millions of consumers.
Initiative process reserved for rare public outrage
The initiative process in Washington state is an important one. It’s a safeguard to ensure that if the Legislature doesn’t act on an issue of critical importance to the people, then citizens can literally take lawmaking into their own hands.
Yet, over the years, the initiative process has been hijacked by special-interest groups to push their often narrow agendas and bypass the legislative process.
Initiatives are no longer springing from grass-root outrage.
Tim Eyman, who has made a name for himself as an anti-tax crusader on the strength of his success using the initiative system to change state policy, found last week that even he is having trouble traversing the new landscape of the initiative process.
Tim Eyman’s latest initiative, which would eliminate car-tab taxes for the Puget Sound area’s transportation system and then tax every vehicle in Washington at a flat rate of $30, failed to collect enough signatures to make the ballot this year.
“Why didn’t we make it this time?” Eyman wrote to his supporters last week. “It boils down to money. We just didn’t raise enough funds to hire paid petitioners to supplement our volunteers. Nowadays, it’s near essential to hire paid professionals.”
While it’s unfortunate the system has become dependent on paid signature gatherers, which runs contrary to the system’s design as a check to the Legislature’s power, it’s also heartening that voters have become stingy with their signatures.
The signature-gathering process is supposed to weed out lousy initiative proposals before they get on the ballot. It forces those who write initiatives to take the crafting of the proposal seriously and take steps to ensure the potential pitfalls have been addressed.
Some elected to the Legislature have shown disdain for the initiative process in the past, sometimes proposing legal hurdles that would make it harder to qualify a measure for the ballot.
We generally oppose such efforts. In those cases, we have stood firmly with Eyman in his effort to gain access to the ballot for his proposals.
But when the proposal isn’t embraced by the public, as was the case with Eyman’s latest effort, it shows the initiative system works.
Initiatives should only make the ballot when the people feel they have no other option but to go around the Legislature to solve a problem.