By SHERRY BOCKWINKEL
The News Tribune’s editorial last week about Tacoma Initiative 1 was short on facts and long on hysteria.
The myth the TNT continues to proliferate is about how many dispensaries and pharmacies are operating in Tacoma. The fact is there are twice as many pharmacies as dispensaries. The City of Tacoma business license department reports 30 “active” business licenses for dispensaries, with two listed twice.
There are 18 dispensaries open and actually conducting business and the other 10 are not in operation.
The number of pharmacies in business is 37 according to a Google search, however, the city reports only 30 with business licenses.
The News Tribune editorial board should do a little fact checking before printing editorials that are so misleading. One line in the editorial stands out, “As far as we can tell, Initiative 1 would pretty much tell the police to do what they’re already doing.”
Well, that is certainly a matter of opinion. The News Tribune’s own news report two days after that editorial told a whole different story. That report said in the past year, 223 cannabis possession cases have been charged in Tacoma.
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, has prosecuted zero cases during the same time.
Tacoma police say they are understaffed and overworked. Police Chief Don Ramsdell says cannabis offenses are already the lowest enforcement priority. However, their actions speak louder than their words.
This comment from the editorial must be addressed, “For that matter, it doesn’t distinguish possession of an ounce from possession of five pounds.”
The facts. The city police prosecute cannabis offenses for 40 grams or less. If a person is found with five pounds of cannabis, that would be a matter for the county prosecutors. This hysterical comment was actually printed in the editorial: “Strains of highly potent marijuana appear to trigger schizophrenia, among other problems.”
Wow, that sounds like a line right out of “Refer Madness,” a propaganda film from 1936 where high school kids smoke pot and quickly go insane. It is slapstick humor but apparently some people actually think it is a documentary.
Seriously, if The News Tribune editorial board is concerned about “highly potent marijuana,” the Cannabis Task Force created by Mayor Strickland will address that issue by next August. The task force is made up of 12 highly professional and well-respected members of our community and they will be setting up rules and regulations for dispensaries.
Perhaps if The News Tribune editorial board had bothered to contact the Cannabis Reform Act campaign prior to running their editorial, their editorial could have been based on facts instead of the fiction they decided to publish.
Tacoma Initiative 1 managed to get on the ballot from the efforts of patients. Patients know the benefits of cannabis use for pain relief. This is certainly a far better choice than narcotics.
Tacoma Initiative 1 is modeled after Seattle Initiative 75, which the voters overwhelmingly approved in 2003. A study was done for five years after the passage of I-75 and found that the citizens in Seattle have been well-served by making cannabis offenses the lowest enforcement priority.
Voting yes on Tacoma Initiative 1 will send a message to police and prosecutors that there are more serious crimes in Tacoma to spend scarce police resources on than busting patients and recreational cannabis users for 40 grams or less.
Voters may confuse Tacoma Initiative 1 with Pierce County Proposition 1. Just remember, voting yes on Tacoma Initiative 1 is a common sense approach about directing the police to focus on more serious crimes.
Sherry Bockwinkel is a volunteer with the campaign to pass Initiative 1.