Seattle recently held its annual marijuana celebration, aka Hempfest, replete with colorful characters and events like the bags of Doritos (with pot-smoking instructions) handed out by police, numerous tie-dyed shirt shops and burrito vendors as well as the sweet smell of success from the public ballot initiative that de-criminalized recreational pot use in Washington state.
“The whole world is watching!” shouted Vivian McPeak to the crowd last weekend. McPeak, the organizer of Hempfest and a long-time activist for legalizing marijuana, might have been accused of hyperbole had he said this last year. But this year certainly, it’s not an overstatement.
“I’ve been working with the government of Uruguay on their move toward legalization of cannabis,” said Alison Holcomb, the attorney from the Washington branch of the American Civil Liberties Union who helped draft Initiative 502 that last fall de-criminalized recreational use of small amounts of marijuana.
“Uruguay’s President José Mujica favors this approach as a means to undermine narco-trafficking and the violent criminal organizations who now benefit from it being illegal.”
- Attorney Alison Holcomb and son Dashiell
Holcomb, who doesn’t use marijuana and spoke at Hempfest accompanied by her young son Dashiell, has traveled a lot since Washington voters approved extending the earlier legalized use of medical marijuana by making personal, recreational use legal as well (at least according to state law). Holcomb was the leader of this initiative, but not because she necessarily favors use of marijuana.
She got into this by first legally defending marijuana users or producers many years ago because she saw it as a matter of global justice. The so-called War on Drugs, which after half a century of implementation is by most accounts a failure, has led to a massive increase in the U.S. prison population as well as widespread instability and violence in many Latin American countries.
Rather than defend against such damaging policies, Holcomb eventually decided to help change the law. Continue reading