WA State Could Decide on Pot Use Next Year

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Washington State voters may get to decide on whether to legalize the use of marijuana in 2012.

Supporters of Initiative 502 turned in more than 340,000 signatures to the secretary of state to qualify their initiative before the state legislature. They plan on turning in another 10,000 signatures on Friday.

If qualified, the initiative could wind up on the November ballot if state lawmakers do not oppose it during the upcoming legislative session that begins Jan. 9.

I-502 would set up a system of state-licensed growers, processors, and stores, and impose a 25 percent excise tax at each stage.

It would make it legal for anyone 21 year of age and older to buy one gram of dried marijuana.

The proposed measure would also set a limit of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood that motorists could have in their system. THC is the active ingredient of cannabis.

Opponents of the initiative say it would harm medical marijuana patients. They argue that medical marijuana patients' levels vary depending on the body's tolerance and it would put them at greater risk of arrest.

Supporters say the taxes on marijuana would bring in an estimated $200 million a year.

Washington State already has a medical marijuana law for people suffering from cancer and other conditions that cause "intractable pain."

The drug remains illegal for any use under federal law.

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