Former U.S. attorneys appear in TV ad supporting pot initiative

SEATTLE — The campaign to legalize and tax recreational marijuana sales for those older than 21 in Washington is launching a new television ad campaign Thursday, featuring former federal law enforcement officials arguing that pot prohibition has failed.

In one of the ads, two former top Justice Department officials in Seattle, U.S. Attorneys John McKay and Kate Pflaumer, join the former head of the FBI’s office in Seattle, Charles Mandigo, in urging voters to approve Initiative 502. All three have previously come out in favor of the measure, which would set up a system of licensed marijuana growers, processors and standalone retail stores, and McKay is a sponsor of the initiative.

“We know firsthand that decades of marijuana arrests have failed to reduce use,” Mandigo says. “And the drug cartels are pocketing all the profits.”

Pflaumer adds that “Initiative 502 brings marijuana under tight regulatory control” while generating tax revenue for education, health care and substance abuse prevention.

McKay, who appears alone in the second ad, says that if I-502 passes law enforcement will have more resources to go after violent crime.

The 30-second spots are scheduled to air during early morning news shows on the major broadcast stations in the Seattle and Spokane regions, and on MSNBC and CNN’s early morning news shows in the Vancouver and Longview areas.

Washington is one of three states, along with Oregon and Colorado, in which voters are considering whether to OK marijuana for recreational use. New Approach Washington, which is behind I-502, has raised about $4.1 million for the effort, and this is its second television campaign. The first ad ran in August and featured a woman saying that she personally doesn’t like marijuana, but that there were good reasons to consider legalization.

“An overwhelming majority of Washington citizens agree that treating marijuana use as a crime has failed,” I-502 campaign manager Alison Holcomb said in a written statement. “Initiative 502, endorsed by law enforcement, public health doctors, and prevention and treatment experts, is a carefully considered, responsible approach to changing course. We can do better, and our communities deserve it.”

Some other current and former law enforcement officials have endorsed I-502, including both candidates for King County sheriff. But the sentiment is far from unanimous. Both candidates for state attorney general oppose it, as does the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, which worries about increasing the accessibility of marijuana for teens and about creating a patchwork of inconsistent drug laws around the country.

If I-502 passes, marijuana would remain illegal under federal law, and the Justice Department could sue to try to block it from taking effect on the grounds that it frustrates the purpose of the Controlled Substances Act.

Watch the TV ads

View the pro-initiative 502 ads online at www.newapproachwa.org/page/television-ads.

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