The I-1068 campaign, the faltering initiative (says the AP today) to legalize pot, issued a bummed-out press release this afternoon. The group, still in signature gathering mode to get the initiative on the ballot, had been hoping for financial backing from the Service Employees International Union so the campaign could used paid signature gatherers.
Initiatives need 240,000 valid signatures by the end of June. The campaign says it has collected 100,000 signatures with a goal of getting 320,00 to assure the 240,000 valid requirement. (They've got 20,000 petitions in the field, they say, room for up to 400,000 signatures. )
According to Sensible Washington spokesperson Philip Dawdy, the powerhouse union—after indicating they were interested in getting the marijuana initiative on the ballot because it would be good for progressive turnout—"walked away."
Sensible Washington's bitter (and slightly over-the-top) press release, which also calls the ACLU "armchair liberals" for not supporting the initiative, begins:
Via an Associated Press reporter, Sensible Washington learned earlier this afternoon that the Service Employees International Union and other players in progressive causes in Washington State have declined to financially support paid signature gathering for I-1068. Over the last month, the SEIU and others in state politics have talked with Sensible Washington about steps they could take to ensure that the initiative turned in enough signatures to qualify for this November's ballot because marijuana legalization being on the ballot would drive extra voter turnout in ways that would benefit progressive causes and candidates in November in what's shaping up to be a tough year for Democrats and progressive issues. Now after stringing the I-1068 campaign along for four weeks, they've walked.
"Politics in this state stink," said Philip Dawdy, I-1068 campaign director and an initiative co-author. "Marijuana smells better. It’s disappointing that SEIU and others have walked away from us, but this campaign will fight on because the issue is simply too important."
Dawdy said he's especially frustrated that the SEIU and others walked away from I-1068 after romancing it for a month because Sensible Washington, sponsors of I-1068, originally approached the state Democratic Party and others in progressive politics back in February, asking for advice and guidance on running a successful initiative campaign. Sensible Washington was ignored until May when it became apparent I-1068 would be a good voter turnout tool. Sensible Washington was told that various political actors in this state felt marijuana law reform was a fringe issue and that people were nervous about potentially being tied to such a campaign.
SEIU spokesman Adam Glickman says the union was "intrigued" by the initiative "both as policy and politically." On the policy side, Glickman says SEIU liked the idea of saving money on prosectutions and incarcerations for low-level crimes. Additionally, SEIU liked the idea of "potential new revenue" along the lines of the legalize and tax legislation proposed by state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D-36, Seattle) in the legislature this past session.
Politically, Glickman says SEIU saw the possibility of the pot initiative increasing progressive turn out in November.
"We met with them, talked to them, talked to stakeholders, and did our due diligence," Glickman says, "but in the end we concluded there were too many questions about the policy."
Glickman said the ACLU's lack of enthusiasm—the ACLU didn't like the initiative because it failed to spell out a regulatory scheme—was a big factor in SEIU's decision not to support the initiative.
Glickman says the policy questions "left the initiative open to a lot of attacks—attacks around law enforcement issues" and that "losing this campaign wouldn't be very helpful."
Glickman says SEIU is "still intrigued by the issue and there may be another legislative route or another campaign. This was the wrong time."
As for "romancing" the campaign, Glickman says, "we told them we were interested, and we were looking into it. I'm sorry they took it personally."
Glickman also said SEIU polled the issue, but would not say what the polling showed.
We also have a call in to the ACLU which isn't supporting the initiative because they believe it has legal problems.