November elections in Washington State will mean more than just electing a US President this year. An initiative to legalize the use of recreational marijuana  (I-502) is set to be voted on, and if successful could bring in nearly $2 billion in tax revenue in the next five years.

I-502 proposes that for adults over the age of 21, recreational marijuana, like alcohol consumption, be legal. It would prohibit driving under the influence and advertisements for the drug, and would tax its sale. It would be make Washington the first state to regulate legal recreational use of the drug.

The initiative is complicated by the fact that use of the drug, for any purpose, still remains federally unlawful. Other states, like Washington, have passed laws legalizing medical use of marijuana; however, that does not make them immune to federal law. This interference is irregular at best, though, which gives voters and states room to initiate changes if they desire.

California voted on a similar initiative in 2010, but it wasn’t approved when it hit the ballot. Opposition to I-502 claims that the legalization of recreational marijuana would lead to more use and that the black market would still continue. Those in favor of the initiative call notice to the fact that making it illegal has not stopped people from doing so. It is easy to come by, fairly inexpensive, and relatively harmless when compared with other illegal substances. Many see this as a way to regulate its use better and help the state’s economy at the same time.

Whether the initiative will pass or not remains unclear, as do the implications that would follow such a progressive move. All bets are on as the Nov. 6th deadline approaches.

-Ryan Boucher is a student at Penn State.

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