Marijuana debate tonight in Denver–and in Washington, former U.S. Attorney leads legalization effort

Even as proponents of legalizing marijuana in Colorado meet this evening to debate the best way to accomplish that, former U.S. Attorney John McKay is one of a handful of people leading an effort to legalize marijuana in Washington State. Spurred in part by Governor Christine Gregoire’s veto of much of that state’s medical marijuana laws, McKay and others say the time is ripe for full legalization in Washington.

From The Seattle Times:

McKay, who spent five years enforcing federal drug laws as the U.S. attorney in Seattle before he was fired by the Bush administration in early 2007, said he hopes the initiative will help “shame Congress” into ending pot prohibition.

He said laws criminalizing marijuana are wrongheaded because they create an enormous black market exploited by international cartels and crime rings.

“That’s what drives my concern: The black market fuels the cartels, and that’s what allows them to buy the guns they use to kill people,” McKay said. “A lot of Americans smoke pot, and they’re willing to pay for it. I think prohibition is a dumb policy, and there are a lot of line federal prosecutors who share the view that the policy is suspect.”

McKay is not alone. He’s joined in Washington by Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and the ACLU among other high-profile supporters. McKay points out that the repeal of prohibition began at the state level.

In Denver, tonight’s debate will feature proponents of five different plans for taking the issue of legalization before Colorado voters. The debate will be moderated by Westword editor Patricia Calhoun.

The program at Casselman’s Bar, 2620 Walnut St., Denver, will begin at 6:30, with the debate scheduled to run from 7-9. The event is open to the public and free. It will be followed by music until 11.

All of this, of course, comes on the heels of a major international study just released which says the war on drugs has failed and is counterproductive. The study, conducted by an international who’s who of political leaders, concluded that legalization makes far more sense than prohibition.

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About the Author

Scot Kersgaard

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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