Pete Holmes was elected Seattle City Attorney in 2009, ousting a two-term incumbent with nearly 64% of the vote. As City Attorney, Holmes heads an office of more than 90 lawyers, prosecuting misdemeanors and advising and representing the City of Seattle on everything from labor and employment issues to utility regulations and environmental law. Since taking office in 2010, Holmes has refocused the City Attorney’s Office to reflect the city's most critical priorities with an increasingly limited budget. Following Seattle voters' clear instructions in Initiative 75, he stopped prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana possession cases in order to shift resources to more serious crimes such as domestic violence and DUI cases.
Holmes supports legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana—essentially, treating it like we now treat alcohol—because it will improve public safety and respect for law enforcement. With regulation of production and sales and aggressive prosecution of marijuana DUIs, we can focus our limited resources on fighting marijuana-related problems where they have direct negative impacts on our communities and not on throwing people in jail for using a substance that isn't more dangerous than alcohol.
John McKay is a law professor at Seattle University where he teaches National Security Law and Constitutional Law, as well as lecturing nationally on law enforcement, leadership and ethics in government. He is the former United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington, where he served as the chief federal law enforcement officer responsible for the prosecution of drug crimes, including marijuana smuggling, distribution and use. A past President of the Legal Services Corporation in Washington, D.C., he has served as a White House Fellow and Special Assistant to the F.B.I. Director, a Congressional Aide to the late Joel Pritchard (R-WA) and has held leadership positions in the Washington State and American Bar Associations. He has received numerous state and national awards for his leadership in law and government, including the Washington State Bar Association’s Courageous Award following his dismissal as U.S. Attorney in 2007.
McKay supports the initiative because marijuana prohibition has failed and Congress and the legislature must act to eliminate the danger to public safety posed by the enormous American black market. Unless states act to regulate, control and decriminalize most uses of marijuana, Congress will continue to ignore the law enforcement danger and assert federal criminal laws that ill serve the public.
Rick Steves has spent 30 years teaching European travel. Today, with his staff of 80 at Europe Through the Back Door in Edmonds, Washington, he produces the public television series “Rick Steves’ Europe,” the public radio show “Travel with Rick Steves,” and authors over 30 guidebooks covering all of Europe. Steves is busy in his community and church supporting the work of Bread for the World and the YWCA (by providing them a 25 unit apartment complex to house homeless mothers and their children). Steves is also a board member of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and for a decade has spoken out on his belief that the responsible adult recreational use of marijuana is a civil liberty. Steves also believes that, in the interest of pragmatic harm reduction, the abuse of that drug should be treated as an education and health challenge rather than a criminal problem.
Kim Marie Thorburn, MD, MPH, is a retired public health physician. She served as Spokane County health officer and director of the Spokane Regional Health District for nearly 10 years.
Dr. Thorburn’s interest in improving drug policy, particularly legalization and regulation of marijuana, draws on almost two decades of experience as a jail and prison physician. Her years of delivering health care in Californian and Hawaiian jail and prison systems saw the onset of the “war on drugs,” which, over those years, led to the highest per capita incarceration rate in the free world. The ravages of drug policy that hyper-criminalized recreational drug use as well as the disease of addiction included discrimination; disruption of families, especially female-headed households; youth recruitment into gangs; and diversion of funding from educational and social programs.
As a physician, Dr. Thorburn understands that marijuana is safer than our two legal recreational drugs: alcohol and tobacco. This experience is supported by the literature. During her tenure as Spokane health officer, she oversaw the development of effective tobacco regulation following successful litigation against Big Tobacco. She believes that we need a similar model for marijuana. Youth prevention can only work with honest, straight-forward messages. Classifying marijuana along-side far more dangerous drugs like methamphetamine makes it impossible to talk straight with our kids.
Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson is the prime sponsor of legislation in the State Legislature upon which this initiative is based. As Chair of Appropriations for Health and Human Services, she has seen drastic cuts in vital services such as the Basic Health Plan and in drug and alcohol treatment. She believes regulation and taxation of cannabis will bring much needed revenue to these areas.
Rep. Dickerson has a Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Hawaii and was in the leadership of several programs for children and youth prior to coming to the Washington State Legislature. She has also served as a research consultant with the University of Washington.
She likens the current laws against cannabis as similar to Prohibition of alcohol in the 1930’s and says, “The only people who really win under this system are the gangsters and other criminals.”
Salvador A. Mungia is a partner with the law firm of Gordon Thomas Honeywell and practices in the firm’s Tacoma office. Mungia was born and raised in the Tacoma area and obtained his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1984 graduating with honors. He is the immediate past President of the Washington State Bar Association and a past President of the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association. Mungia served as a Commissioner on the Tacoma Human Rights Commission and also served on the Board of Directors for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, a national organization safeguarding civil rights especially for those who historically have suffered discrimination. Mungia is a supporter of this initiative because of the tremendous drain upon society’s resources that is currently being expended in criminalizing the use of marijuana with very little benefits being achieved.
Roger A. Roffman, professor emeritus, has served on the faculty of the University of Washington School of Social Work since 1972. His degrees are from Boston University, the University of Michigan, and the University of California at Berkeley. One emphasis of Roffman’s research has been the design and evaluation of interventions in the field of substance abuse, with a particular focus on marijuana dependence. Along with Dr. Robert Stephens, Roffman is co-editor of Cannabis Dependence: Its Nature, Consequences, and Treatment published in 2006 by Cambridge University Press. Roffman also maintains a private practice specializing in substance abuse counseling.
Roffman supports this initiative because, as he puts it, "I believe that legalizing marijuana, through a tightly regulated, state-controlled system, is likely to be more effective than are the current criminal sanctions in protecting vulnerable adults and adolescents from harms caused by marijuana."
Mark Johnson is a founding partner of the AV-rated, Seattle law firm Johnson Flora PLLC. He served as President of the Washington State Bar Association 2008-2009 and is an elected fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He believes that the policy of drug interdiction has been an unmitigated disaster. Billions of tax dollars are spent annually enforcing marijuana laws with no impact on use, and billions of untaxed marijuana revenues flow to illegal drug organizations. He is concerned that 60-65% of marijuana grown outdoors in Washington is grown on public land, and these operations damage the environment and threaten public safety. Johnson believes it is time to permit Washington’s adult citizens to legally and responsibly use marijuana for personal consumption. “We cannot afford to ignore an enormous source of untaxed revenue, we cannot continue to deflect valuable law enforcement resources from fighting violent crimes, and we must stop illegal growth operations on our public lands and the financing of drug cartels.”
Dr. Bob Wood, a native of Upstate NY, was educated at Hamilton College, the University of Rochester Medical School, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and the University of Washington. Dr. Wood is a gay general internist who became involved in caring for persons with AIDS in 1982. He helped to found the NW AIDS Foundation (now Lifelong AIDS Alliance), and he became Director of the HIV/AIDS Program of Public Health-Seattle & King County from 1986 until he retired from public health in 2010. He was also the longest term member of the Governor's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (1987-2010) and was appointed chair by Gov. Booth Gardner; he was appointed by HHS Secretary Donna Shalala to the CDC HIV/STD Prevention Advisory Committee, and was a board member of the national Gay & Lesbian Medical Association. After retirement, Dr. Wood retains his Clinical Professorship position at the University of Washington, where he serves as Deputy Director of the Sociobehavioral Prevention Research Core of the UW's Center for HIV & STD Research; and he is a volunteer medical director for Compassion & Choices of Washington. He is proud to be listed as a supporter of the Washington marijuana initiative because, he says, "It's time that we put marijuana and its use together with drugs like alcohol and tobacco -- available for sale to adults but controlled. In fact, all the available evidence suggests that marijuana is a less risky drug than either alcohol or tobacco. It is far less addictive, and has not been shown to cause such serious diseases as cirrhosis and pancreatitis, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases like stroke and heart attack, or delerium tremens ("The DTs" caused by withdrawal from excessive alcohol use). Society is wasting huge sums of money by criminalizing use of marijuana, and we need a new approach to this drug, such as would be provided by this initiative."
Alison Holcomb is Campaign Director for New Approach Washington, on loan from her position as Drug Policy Director for the ACLU of Washington. Before joining the ACLU in 2006, she litigated in state and federal courts for more than a decade, emphasizing drug and civil asset forfeiture defense. Alison is a past vice-president of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and former chair of the Legal Frameworks Group of the King County Bar Association’s Drug Policy Project. She has served on the Seattle City Council’s I-75 Marijuana Policy Review Panel and its Jail Capacity Study Advisory Group, which examined the impact of alternative approaches to low-level drug offenses on jail use. Alison received her B.A. from Stanford University and her J.D. from the University of Washington School of Law. Holcomb and the ACLU believe that our nation’s misguided and costly "War on Drugs" has undermined civil liberties in many ways — eroding protections against unlawful searches and seizures, imposing overly harsh sentences on individuals, and disproportionately impacting communities of color. The ACLU of Washington Drug Policy Project works for policies that treat drug use as a public health concern, not a criminal justice matter, through public education, legislative advocacy, and litigation.