FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 25, 2002
Contact: Dominic Holden (206) 720-2901 (dominic@sensibleseattle.org)

Dollars and common sense

Initiative 75 would shift law enforcement priorities away from adult marijuana possession to focus on dangerous crime; 19,600 signatures submitted to make November 2002 ballot.

SEATTLE- Initiative 75 is well on its way to Seattle's voting booths this November. 19,600 signatures have been turned in to the Seattle City Clerk's Office for validation; only 17,228 are needed to make the ballot. Organizers intend to continue petitioning through mid-August to guarantee enough valid signatures.

Sponsors of the initiative, the Sensible Seattle Coalition, say that arresting adults for marijuana possession is costly and unfair and that it's time for Seattle residents to spend their tax dollars elsewhere. Initiative 75 reads in part, "The measure would require the Seattle Police Department and City Attorney's Office to make cases involving marijuana offenses where the marijuana was intended for adult personal use the City's lowest law enforcement priority."

The measure would also require SPD and the City Prosecutor to report all marijuana arrests semi-annually to an 11 member panel that would monitor I-75 effects and report to the Seattle City Council. The text was originally drafted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington as part of their Drug Policy Project.

Under Washington State law, Seattle citizens could serve up to 90 days in jail and pay as much as $1,000 for possessing as little as one gram of marijuana. While accurate marijuana arrest statistics for Seattle are not available, according to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC), statewide in 2000, a full 91% of all marijuana arrests were for possession only, not growing or sales.

"Our current marijuana policies are not being equally enforced; African Americans are more than four times as likely than Caucasians to be arrested for marijuana possession despite the fact that marijuana is used equally by both communities." says Dominic Holden a 25-year Seattle resident and campaign manager of I-75. According to the US census and WASPC, in 2000, African Americans comprised 8% of Seattle population yet made up 35% of all Seattle's arrests for marijuana possession.

Students are also greatly affected by marijuana arrests. Individuals convicted of even simple marijuana possession are routinely denied education loans. In 1998, the Higher Education Act was revised to end college funding opportunities to students revealing any drug convictions on their application forms. The Department of Education indicates that more than 43,000 would-be students have lost aid during the 2001-2002 school year.

Seattle Councilmember, Nick Licata and 36th District Representative, Sen. Jeannie Kohl-Wells (D) along with the Seattle Green Party and Seattle Libertarians have already endorsed Initiative 75. The 43rd District Democrats have endorsed the signature gathering efforts. Seattle would be the first major US city to pass an initiative like this one by popular vote. Lowering enforcement priorities for marijuana in major metropolitan areas has already proven effective when enacted by local government in the Netherlands, England, San Francisco and Oakland.

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For the complete text of Initiative 75 and more information: www.sensibleseattle.org
For information on local drug arrests, King County Bar Association: www.kcba.org
National marijuana policy information, NORML & Marijuana Policy Project (MPP): www.norml.org www.mpp.org