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A strong majority in Washington State support marijuana legalization initiative (photo: El Tekolote via Flickr)

This weekend the Seattle Times endorsed Initiative 502. If the initiative is approved by the voters of Washington State it would legalize marijuana for adult 21 and old. It would also tax and regulate the sale of marijuana. From the Seattle Times endorsement:

The question for voters is not whether marijuana is good. It is whether prohibition is good. It is whether the people who use marijuana shall be subject to arrest, and whether the people who supply them shall be sent to prison. The question is whether the war on marijuana is worth what it costs.

Initiative 502 says no.

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Marijuana prohibition does not work. The better policy is to legalize it, license it, regulate it and tax it.

The Times editorial board supports Initiative 502 as a big step in that direction. We present some of our other reasons on this page.

The Seattle Times is the largest daily newspaper in the state. This big endorsement is a significant victory for the campaign.

People are often reluctant to change things even when they think the status quo is not working. Fear of the unknown can be a powerful force in politics. While I doubt this endorsement will convert many voters who oppose marijuana legalization, it could importantly make people who were leaning towards supporting I-502 feel more comfortable about that decision. It could provide valuable validation to potential supporters and make change seem less scary.

Recent polling by SurveyUSA shows I-502 holds a large lead. To pass, the I-502 doesn’t need to win over more voters, it simply needs to hold onto most of its current support. Merely preventing the lose of support as the election day approaches is often the main goal for initiative campaigns. A forceful endorsement from an important institution in the state can be very helpful in doing that.