– posted by thehim
This week, the State Senate’s Judiciary Committee passed bill SB 5615 by 5-3 to send it to the Senate floor for a vote. The bill would reduce the punishment for possession of less than 40 grams of marijuana to only a civil infraction, as opposed to the misdemeanor (with potential jail time) that the crime brings today. It would bring our low-level pot possession penalties more in line with other ultra-progressive states like Nebraska and Ohio.
The discussion on SB 5615 starts shortly after the 1:36:00 mark. As you can see from Steve’s post, it was surreal at times. Here were the highlights…
1:36:50 – The bill is read and immediately one of the committee members, I believe Jim Hargrove, asks Chairman Adam Kline how much 40 grams of marijuana is. This causes some laughter before the Committee is able to determine that it’s enough to get everyone in the room looped. Score one for science.
1:38:20 – Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who introduced this bill, lays out the very simple rationale for it. At a time where we have to trim budgets everywhere, it simply makes no sense to spend money on sending pot smokers through out criminal justice system, especially since the state’s largest city, Seattle, has already stopped sending pot smokers through the system and has seen no increase in drug abuse or any other negative societal effects. Not to mention that a poll this week from Zogby found that nearly 60% of west coast residents believe that marijuana should not only be decriminalized, but should be taxed and regulated like alcohol and cigarettes.
1:42:15 – Jim Hargrove’s turn. Hargrove is a Democrat from Hoquiam. He starts out by pointing out that over 70% of CPS cases are drug and alcohol related. It’s certainly true, but by using it in this case, he appears to be arguing that the use and sale of alcohol should be criminalized as well. He then refers to marijuana as a “pathway drug,” a claim which has repeatedly been shown to be bullshit. And he’s just warming up…
1:43:00 – Hargrove breaks out a story about how he just ran into a friend of his from college in the parking lot. He was still wearing the same trench coat he’d worn back then (and had the same haircut). Apparently, this was all because of pot. He says his friend was stuck in a “time warp”.
I’m not sure he’s the only one.
20 years from now, someone who’s currently in college will run into his hardcore gamer friend who’s still wearing the same trench coat and sporting the same haircut and has done nothing with his life. Hopefully, that someone will not be a state legislator trying to ban video games. Comparisons to other psychologically addictive behaviors make it so clear why inertia is such a powerful force in the drug war. Marijuana stays illegal in large part because that situation has just been familiar to us, never because it made any logical sense for it to be illegal in the first place.
1:44:40 – Hargrove says that marijuana is way more carcinogenic than cigarettes. His source for this statistic is coincidentally the same place that serves others as a secure hiding spot for drugs.
1:45:15 – Hargrove finishes out his barrage of false statistics and poor logic, and a member of the committee (didn’t get his name) reminds him that the state is in the alcohol business. Hargrove responds by saying that he’d vote for alcohol prohibition too. He’s a Democrat, folks…
1:45:40 – Kline responds directly to Hargrove about his “friend” in the trench coat. He informs Hargrove that he also smoked pot in college, and not only that, but continued to smoke pot regularly until his 30s, when he became a father. Kline didn’t became a stagnant loser in a time warp by doing that. Instead, he became the guy who’s making Hargrove look like an idiot on TVW.
1:47:30 – Up now, Mike Carrell, Republican from the Fort Lewis area. The first Republican to speak burnishes his conservative credentials by claiming that it’s wrong to focus on the economic aspects of our marijuana policy. Apparently, as long as we convince ourselves that we’re pursuing the right policy, it doesn’t matter if we waste millions of dollars doing nothing.
1:49:00 – In order for Carrell’s faith-based approach to wasting our taxpayer money to continue, drug warriors like him have long had a repository of stock bullshit that gets taken off the shelf every time they’re forced to defend this nonsense in public. Today, he goes with item #256: “Holland is a rotting hellscape”.
Here’s his full quote:
“I’ve got to look to places where they have wide open drug possession such as Holland to see the net effects upon society of doing that. And you can’t go to Amsterdam, and thankfully I’ve not been there, to see some of the things that certainly we know. One of the dangers is stepping on needles and other things just walking the streets there, to look at it has de-raveled society. This is incredibly bad policy.”
You know, if someone came up to me and said, “You know that In Nepal, the buildings are made of chocolate and marshmallows and everyone is around 3 feet tall,” I would make sure that I either travel to Nepal, or at least talk to people who’d traveled there, before taking that bit of information at face value.
I’ve been to Amsterdam twice. I’ve walked around areas that would not be considered “safe” by those familiar with the city. Yet in all that time, I can’t recall ever seeing a needle on the ground (which would be extremely unlikely because they’ve had safe-injection sites for over a decade now). In addition, I felt quite a bit safer than if I’d walked around “unsafe” areas in the two American cities I grew up in (Philly and Detroit).
1:49:30 – Carrell then starts talking about Federal law, which just doesn’t matter in this case. Over a dozen other states already have their penalty limits set up in the same fashion that this bill would require. Even Mississippi has a more lenient penalty than we do for first time marijuana possession arrests of less than an ounce. Mississippi!
1:50:00 – Carrell concludes by saying that the bill is not smart fiscally, even though he started his remarks by saying that money shouldn’t matter when it comes to criminal justice. Painful, let’s move on…
1:50:15 – Pam Roach’s turn. It’s hard to overestimate the level of sheer insanity that this woman brings to the table on any given day. This is someone whose son has been arrested for selling Oxycontin, a far more dangerous drug than marijuana, yet still doesn’t even have the basic understanding of how the drug war fails us.
She starts out by saying, “It is a gateway drug”. I can imagine that someone who saw their own son get involved in dangerous drugs could mistakenly believe that, but the reality is that the vast majority of the people who use marijuana don’t go on to use more dangerous drugs. Most of us understand that drugs like heroin and cocaine are far more dangerous than pot.
But the folks I’ve seen who go down that path tend not to be those whose parents are the most lenient about marijuana. They tend to be the ones who are raised in families where the dangers of marijuana were portrayed in the most unrealistic and outrageous ways. They were those who tried marijuana, found out that it wasn’t all that scary, and then began to question everything they were taught about drugs. In the end, they become addicted to the thrill of rebelling against the fear-based rules they were raised under.
1:50:50 – Roach brings up the difficulty in policing stoned driving, as if this somehow becomes a bigger problem should the bill pass. Apparently, in Pam’s world, people would only drive high if it pot were decriminalized. Driving while stoned is not quite safe, but driving drunk is a significantly bigger problem. Unless Roach agrees with Senator Hargrove’s bold call for a return to alcohol prohibition, she doesn’t have a point here.
1:51:20 – Roach complains that the bill is going to be voted out of the committee on a 5-3 vote, when it would so much easier to vote 4-4 and kill it. She’s acting as if the people voting yes have no idea what they’re doing. Didn’t any of them develop a keen understanding of how to stop drug dealing in our towns by raising an Oxycontin dealer like she did?
1:52:00 – Roach finishes up with this amazing quote:
“It is really a lot easier for parents when they can say ‘this is illegal’.”
Was it, Pam? Did that work in your house?
1:52:15 – After that 5 minute stretch of crazy, it was Rodney Tom’s turn. He points out that Holland has significantly less marijuana use than America does, even though people have been able to buy marijuana in coffee-shops there since the 1970s. This must the kind of “de-raveling” that Carrell was referring to – except that it’s his imaginary portrayal of that country that’s de-raveling.
Key quote from Tom: “This is not about being soft on crime, it’s about being smart on crime.” Well said.
1:53:35 – Kohl-Welles asks to make some final comments. She points out that Federal law has no bearing on this bill and that there’s absolutely no evidence that marijuana is a “gateway drug”. Pam Roach is seen talking to Rodney Tom the whole time, before just getting up and leaving, so she missed Kohl-Welles making the point that marijuana’s illegality is what can often put marijuana users into the proximity of more dangerous drugs. I’m fairly certain that even if Roach had heard it, she wouldn’t have understood it.
1:55:20 – The bill is approved out of committee to be debated on the Senate floor. I can’t believe a bill this basic and benign has had to struggle so much to get only this far.