Candidate Maurice Classen: Decriminalize Pot Now, Legalize Later

By Erica C. Barnett June 22, 2011

Earlier this month, Jean Godden opponent Maurice Classen proposed licensing co-ops to grow and distribute medical marijuana in industrial areas. Yesterday, he sat down with PubliCola and explained the thinking behind his proposal, as well as why he ultimately thinks decriminalizing pot in general makes more sense than merely allowing grow-ops and medical marijuana sales in certain zones of the city.

"I didn't see anybody presenting a licensing scheme. I think there's some talk about zoning, but nobody's talking about licensing," Classen said.

However, Classen told us he would accept a zoning solution if full decriminalization isn't politically possible.

"You've got to have a system where you actually know where these co-ops or grow-ops are going to be, or else you're going to have six or seven people running out [of the co-op], and police officers will see them and write a warrant [and] all of a sudden, you're going to have six cancer patients plastered up against the wall on the front page of the Seattle Times," Classen said.

"You have to have some way of segmenting them away or finding them and monitoring them. Otherwise you're just going to have a situation like you had with Bob Rosenberger," the former candidate for King County Assessor who was robbed and beaten by intruders who thought he was running a grow-op from his home.

Does Classen support full legalization, along the lines of the initiative proposed by a new group called New Approach Washington, which would legalize and tax pot, which would be sold in licensed private stores?

"I think [legalization is] eventually where we go, but I think you take it step by step. Government is not fantastic at doing things rapidly," Classen said. "I don't know that we're ready yet for a full regulatory scheme of legalization. I don't know if we know where that goes yet. I think it's safer to take time and decriminalize it first."
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