House Bill 1550 isn’t going anywhere this session, but as indicated by the high-profile people who now say the prohibition on pot should be lifted, the issue will be part of the debate in Washington state for the foreseeable future. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle would legalize marijuana, have its sale regulated by the state Liquor Control Board and impose a tax of 15 percent per gram on cannabis. Supporters say it would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars for a state government staring at a deficit of at least $5 billion for the next two years.
“In these trying trying times, do you think $440 million in new revenue would be of interest,” Dickerson asked her colleagues during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing. The state currently faces a $5 billion deficit. Dickerson said the new tax monies could be used for health care and youth substance abuse prevention. “Let me clear – I don’t support legalization because I want to see more people use cannabis. I support it because I know a tremendous number of people already use cannabis. Why shouldn’t the state benefit from that (as opposed to criminal organizations).”
City Councilman Tim Burgess, a former police officer, City Attorney Pete Holmes and former U.S. Attorney John McKay spoke in favor of the bill.