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Monday, October 1, 2012

The Sheriff and His Opponent Fight Over Who Wants to Legalize Pot More

Posted by on Mon, Oct 1, 2012 at 11:50 AM


This is John Urquhart and Steve Strachan. They're both cops. Strachan, who used to be a DARE officer, is now the King County Sheriff, and Urquhart is the 24-year department veteran running to replace him in the November election.

When the SECB sat down with these gents, they disagreed about a few things—on capital punishment, for example, Urquhart supports it while Strachan is totally opposed—but they both agreed on one thing: legalizing marijuana.

As if that isn't refreshing enough, then they squabbled over who wants to legalize it more.

"As the sheriff, I don't think it is a problem for public safety if we legalize it because that will provide a supported, understood law that we can enforce," Strachan said. His leading point was that legalization—particularly a model with well defined regulatory mechanisms like Initiative 502 on the fall ballot—would help delineate lawbreakers from law abiders. Current medical marijuana laws are ambiguous while the priority for possession cases is low, so "the lack of clarity in the law is bad for criminal justice, bad for rule of law, and bad for kids. And as a law enforcement leader," the sheriff continued, "I think legalization will lead to the greatest clarity. I will vote for I-502."

But Urquhart said that position contains "no leadership" and it's not enough. "Strachan talked about clarifying the law," Urquhart said of his opponent. "The reason I am for legalization is not to clarify the law. I am saying that, morally, it should be legal."

Strachan refused to back down. He disavowed some of his practices as a DARE officer, saying that the program was "overblowing the dangers" of pot, that marijuana use was a "parental responsibility," and that mixing messages about marijuana with "truly dangerous" hard drugs was "incredibly unhelpful."

Man, who cares who wins this debate, right?

This is an active-duty sheriff and a recently retired cop, both campaigning for office in a room of reporters, typing—trying—to one-up each-other over on an issue that used to be toxic. Just nine years ago, King County Sheriff Dave Reichert co-authored a knee jerk voters guide statement opposing Seattle's initiative to deprioritize pot enforcement because it would be "wrong for our children and our community." Now both the people who want that same job are fighting on the other side—in the name of the children and morality—and the position is safe ground for both of them.

It's easy to take this for granted in a progressive place like Seattle, but when the sworn, badge-wearing leaders of a major police force in the US can boldly advocate for legalizing marijuana, it represents a monumental shift. Pot is going to be legal soon in Washington State, I'm sure of it, whether or not voters pass Initiative 502 in November. If prohibition doesn't have the cops on its side, it's lost.


Comments (10) RSS

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California Kid 1
I'd stand up and cheer, but maaaan, dude, that's too much work right now.
Posted by California Kid on October 1, 2012 at 12:04 PM · Report this
Urquhart is not active duty. He retired.
Posted by TJ on October 1, 2012 at 12:32 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 3
Only one of them is telling the truth.
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 1, 2012 at 12:38 PM · Report this
Dominic Holden 4
@2) Thanks, I clarified in the post that only Strachan is active duty.
Posted by Dominic Holden on October 1, 2012 at 12:43 PM · Report this
Gordon Werner 5
Dominic ... who would you say made the better case for getting the job? in your non-binding personal opinion
Posted by Gordon Werner on October 1, 2012 at 12:57 PM · Report this
While I'm glad Strachan has finally joined Urquhart in his support of I-502, that certainly wasn't the case in the beginning of the race. It's pretty obvious he's pining for the Stranger endorsement with his sudden change of heart.…
Posted by Lisasanswer on October 1, 2012 at 1:28 PM · Report this
I really wish these two would quit taking pot shots at each other and debate I-502.
Posted by Thanks... I'll be here all week on October 1, 2012 at 1:34 PM · Report this
remcycle 8
I'll vote for the guy without the moral objection. If 502 passes, is Washington State prepared for the Feds to come in and shut it down? I hope they don't but California tried this and it's not working out so well. Thoughts? Anyone?
Posted by remcycle on October 1, 2012 at 2:21 PM · Report this
Californian here. Yeah, dispensaries still have to look out for feds, but it's still huge that you don't have to get arrested over a few joints.
Posted by Anymouse on October 1, 2012 at 2:46 PM · Report this
That's all well and good, but this from the LA TImes today: "A Louisiana man has been released from death row, becoming the 300th prisoner nationwide to be freed after DNA evidence showed he was innocent." I'm more interested in Uruquart still supporting the death penalty. For that reason, Strachen may get my vote. THAT is a more courageous position coming from a cop.
Posted by mandyv on October 1, 2012 at 2:54 PM · Report this

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