King County Council Chair Larry Gossett endorses initiative to Legalize, Tax, and Regulate Marijuana

Monday, May 28, 2012

Gossett Cites Racial Disparities in Enforcement of Marijuana Laws

On Monday, May 28, King County Council Chair Larry Gossett announced his endorsement of Initiative 502, a Washington state initiative to legalize, tax, and regulate purchase and possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and over.

“As a nation, we can no longer afford to ignore the reality that the criminalization of marijuana has been a costly failure,” Gossett said.  “The State of Washington should take the lead in establishing a new, public health approach that will better serve our communities.”

Last month, the Washington State Office of Financial Management published preliminary fiscal analyses of the new tax revenue Initiative 502 would generate.  An estimated $560 million would go each year to the state general fund, local budgets, health care, drug abuse prevention, research, and education.

Gossett also expressed concern about current racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement.  “The uncomfortable truth is that people with brown and black skin are more likely than their white counterparts to wind up with a marijuana conviction that will limit their educational and employment opportunities,” he said.  

In Washington, an African American is three times as likely to be arrested, three times as likely to be charged, and three times as likely to be convicted of a marijuana offense than a white person despite the fact that white Washingtonians use marijuana at slightly higher rates.  “These inequalities also exacerbate tensions between our police officers and the communities they serve,” Gossett added.

Gossett is serving his seventh term on the Metropolitan King County Council.  Born and raised in Seattle, he has long been an advocate for programs that help inner-city youth and reduce racial and class disparities in our local criminal justice system.  From April 1979 until December 1993, he served as executive director of the Central Area Motivation Program, one of the oldest and largest community action agencies in the City of Seattle.


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