Road Trip Washington: Spreading the Word about I-502, a New Approach to Marijuana

I’m in the midst of an unforgettable road trip, packed with vivid experiences. So far, I’ve shared an inspirational message at a Unitarian church in Spokane, hiked across a farm to see a huge “Hemp for Washington” sign overlooking a freeway with the farmer who posted it, and sipped wine in a trendy Walla Walla winery with a skeptical Republican legislator (Maureen Walsh, whose emotional speech about marriage equality just went viral on YouTube).

It’s all part of our 10-stops-in-7-days road trip with my team to talk up I-502, the Washington State initiative to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults. (If you’d like to know more about why I support this initiative, read my recent editorial.) Working diligently on our laptops and cellphones as we drive, and determinedly lobbying legislators, mayors, and city council members each lunch and evening, it occurred to us as kind of funny how different we are from many of the people whose civil liberties we are defending.

Last night we enjoyed the odd experience of talking up marijuana law reform in the cute little faux-Bavarian town of Leavenworth — while tipsy revelers there were spilling out of the bars and into the streets as the entire place was celebrating a sloppy and boisterous Oktoberfest. The only vigorous opposition we’ve encountered was at the Washington State Capitol—from people who claim our law doesn’t go far enough. An angry gang who thinks our initiative is too restrictive and too strict in its DUI limits tried to shout us down. When I wonder who was behind that rumble at the rotunda, I have a hunch it was what I like to call the PPP (Pot Prohibition Profiteers).

Doing radio and newspaper interviews in the car as we roll, dining with a 27-year FBI veteran (the former special agent in charge of the Seattle division, who now understands that our nation’s war on marijuana is an expensive disaster), and sharing the stage with a Baptist minister whose African American community is taking the brunt of a war on drugs he considers racist, we find the days jam-packed with both learning and teaching.

We’re being trailed by a film crew making an hour-long documentary on the story of our historic-if-we-win initiative, which is on track to make our state a leader in deconstructing this prohibition one state at a time (which is how the earlier Prohibition was ended). We read about our events the morning after in small-town papers at truck stops. The national media is starting to pay attention to what’s about to happen in Washington State.

We’re four days down…and just over halfway through. And it’s a lot more than talks and politics. I’m seeing our state as never before, getting up early and marveling at the beauty of our “Inland Empire” in the sunrise light. Driving along the Columbia River Gorge from Vancouver, Washington, towards Kennewick, and then cutting through the Palouse from Walla Walla to Spokane, and driving over Blewett Pass through the turning leaves of fall — it’s all been a joy. (Well, all except for the speeding ticket two of our SUVs got — from a very friendly cop who liked my TV show…but not quite enough — near the Idaho border.)

It’s a heady mix of beauty, exhilaration, exhaustion, and fun, all pushing forward our strong belief that the truth is on our side. We believe that, ten years from now, our country will look back and be thankful that Washington State finally stood up to Washington, DC, and voted to take the crime out of marijuana: treating its abuse as a health and education challenge; ending a massive black market that has enriched and emboldened gangs and organized crime; and finally accepting its use by mature and responsible adults as a civil liberty.

Follow the rest of our tour on Facebook at – Yes On WA’s Marijuana Initiative 502, “Like” us and imagine helping this happen in your state. Or visit New Approach Washington. Thanks.