Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott gave a weaselly nonanswer about where he stood on marijuana legalization in this week's paper, saying ending pot arrests wasn't a "pressing issue" or something. Weaselly.
So I began pressing his office. After all, his whippersnapper opponent, Andrew Hughes, had drawn his primary policy distinction between himself and McDermott on this issue—Hughes supports legalizing marijuana and McDermott didn't. Furthermore, voters in Washington State all have to make up their minds this fall where they stand on Initiative 502, which would legalize and regulate pot, so surely a Congressman who makes laws for a living can buck up, too. It took a couple days of prodding his office, sending my questions, and waiting—at long last—for these answers:
Me: Does Congressman McDermott believe that marijuana should be legalized and regulated like alcohol for adults 21 and over?
McDermott: As a physician I believe in helping patients with their suffering and accordingly I’ve always supported legalizing use of medical marijuana. If a state decides to go further and legalize marijuana for general use, I think that is fine as long as it is properly taxed and safely regulated. As with smoking tobacco, I am concerned about potential adverse health effects of smoking marijuana but I don’t believe that it should be a criminal offense.
Me: What does he think should happen to adult marijuana users in Washington State?
McDermott: All states including Washington should have leeway on this issue as long as it’s taxed and regulated in the interest of public health and safety. I don’t think the federal government should be spending taxpayer dollars on going after adult marijuana users, especially if a state legalizes pot for general use.
Me: And if he does support regulating marijuana like alcohol, why hasn't he endorsed I-502?
McDermott: I have been studying the proposal and am planning on endorsing it.
Congratulations, Congressman. That wasn't so bad, was it?
And congratulations, Andrew Hughes! This serves to show why 12-term Congressmen like McDermott need challengers like you. By using this as the dividing line between yourself and a politician who had grown comfortable with an anachronistic platform on drug policy, McDermott evolved because you pushed him to evolve. And, true, you probably won't win. But you can keep pushing McDermott. So keep it up, whippersnapper!