House Speaker "Open to Hearing About" Pot Decriminalization

This article is by Brian Slodysko, and was originally posted at

One of the key opponents to reforming Washington’s marijuana laws appears to be softening his stance on the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. Maybe.

During a meeting of the 43rd District Democrats last week, House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-43) reportedly told those in attendance that he was open to the idea of  decriminalizing the possession of 40 grams or less of marijuana when the legislature convenes in January.

“He’s open to hearing about it,” said Melinda McCrady, communications director for the House Democratic caucus. “It is something that our members have started talking about.”

While Chopp’s commitment to decriminalization is still pretty fuzzy, it marks a significant change of course for the so-called shadow governor of Washington, who last year was rumored to be instrumental in killing a measure that would have enacted the same changes in the law that he now says he is open to. (Although pot wasn’t particularly popular in the House last year, a companion bill in the Senate fared much better, passing out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support.)

Chopp may simply be responding to a shift in the political wind.

“I think that, first of all, this is an issue where the Legislature is behind the electorate,” said Shankar Narayan, the legislative director for the ACLU of Washington. “I think the (votes) are certainly there in the Democratic caucus. No one is going to lose seats over this.”

Narayan says polling data shows more Washingtonians are for marijuana decriminalization than are against it.

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