Drug Medicalization Initiative Pushes For Ballot In Washington

An initiative effort to reform Washington state’s illicit drug policies is entering its final phase of signature gathering. Activists have two weeks left to acquire the 179,248 signatures necessary to place Proposition 685, the “Drug Medicalization and Prevention Act of 1997,” on the 1997 state ballot.

Proposition 685 models itself after an Arizona drug-reform initiative passed in November by 65 percent of the voters. The initiative makes the following changes in state drug laws:

  • Requires that any person who commits a violent crime under the influence of drugs serve 100 percent of his or her sentence.
  • Permits doctors to recommend Schedule I controlled substances such as marijuana to seriously and terminally ill patients.
  • Provides that persons convicted of non-violent drug possession crimes successfully undergo court supervised drug treatment programs and probation instead of being sentenced to prison.
  • Requires that nonviolent persons currently in prison for personal possession or use of illegal drugs, and not serving a concurrent sentence for another crime, or previously convicted under any habitual criminal statute in any jurisdiction of the United States, be made eligible for immediate parole and drug treatment, education, and community service.

A story in this Tuesday’s Seattle Times reports that backers of the proposition expect to have more than enough signatures by the July 3 deadline to meet the state ballot requirement. Proponents recently hired paid signature gatherers to step up efforts in the final weeks before the deadline.

“We plan on being on the ballot and are looking forward toward … the rest of the campaign … [this] fall,” Dr. Robert Killian, the initiative’s sponsor, told NORML.

For more information, please contact Madeline Johnson of Citizens for Drug Policy Reform at (206) 781-6795. Copies of the initiative are available from NORML upon request.