In his former life as a Washington state trooper, Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer recalls watching a motorist one day drive around a Walmart parking lot, encircling it several times at about three miles an hour.
Round and round the car went, until Boyer’s hit his overhead lights and brought the car from its crawl to a halt.
The driver was stoned, Boyer recalled.
The sheriff used the story to explain to me his mixed feelings about Initiative 502, which would legalize the possession of marijuana for adults 21 and over. The driver was certainly not the worst he’d ever seen, having responded to too many alcohol-fueled fatality crashes. But he looks at the issue from a public health standpoint: would Washingtonians be better off if they could purchase weed at a store?
“Do you really want to add it to the mix” of our currently legalized libations? he asked.
For the record, Boyer will not be following suit of King County Sheriff Steve Strachan, who has come out in favor of the initiative. Boyer will be voting no on it.
But the issue’s merits are a conversation he wants to have.
“I think it deserves a dialogue and discussion,” he said. “Not just rhetoric.”
He believes that medical marijuana, whose patients in this state have long operated in a legal gray area, can help people. And he does not view pot as a scourge on society in the same way as, say, meth or heroin have been.
“Marijuana being an evil weed causing all the problems in this country? I don’t buy that,” he said.
But here’s why he’s voting no:
- The plant remains a so-called Schedule 1 narcotic — meaning it has a high potential for abuse and has no value medically — in the eyes of the federal government.
- Use of any substance not prescribed for medical use — legal or illegal — “do not usually make a person’s life better,” he said.
- He doubts the criminal justice system will save money by not having to prosecute simple marijuana possession. “There are very few people in jail for recreational marijuana,” he said.
Boyer reiterated his willingness to continue the discuss and that he could change his mind about possible future initiatives. For now, he’s still weighing the issues, but isn’t ready to vote to end marijuana prohibition.