Richland residents can expect to see petitions this summer asking the city council to approve a low-priority law-enforcement policy on marijuana use.
Richland and several other cities in Central Washington that allow for citizen petitions regarding proposed ordinances have been targeted for the campaign by a pro-medical marijuana organization called Washington SAFER Coalition, based in Spokane.
Ian Moody, who also founded Sensible Spokane Alliance, said petitions calling for a Richland ordinance regarding licensing, taxation and regulation of marijuana, making it a low priority for Richland police to arrest adults on marijuana offenses are available at www.wasafer.org.
Moody said similar municipal petition campaigns are being conducted in Yakima, Wenatchee and Chelan. There is no campaign in Kennewick or Pasco because those cities do not allow citizen initiatives, he said.
The Richland campaign will need 20 percent of the registered voters, or just more than 9,100, by mid-October to qualify for having a special election in 2013, Moody said.
"Even if we don't get this on the ballot, we'll continue to work on it locally," Moody said.
Seattle approved a low-priority law-enforcement policy on marijuana nine years ago, and Tacoma did the same last year, Moody said.
Spokane has been a target for the effort for years but still hasn't approved the policy.
Moody claims Hispanics and blacks across the state are arrested on marijuana violations four times more than whites. Having a low-priority policy would change that, he said.
"Seattle (with its user-friendly policy about marijuana) is basically a little utopia over there, but we shouldn't expect the same in Eastern Washington," Moody said.
Having a low-priority policy for law enforcement would open the way for regulation and taxation of marijuana. That could reduce the market for illegal transactions and lower criminal activities in Central Washington, Moody said.
Additionally, Moody said a low-priority policy would send a message to federal agents.
"It is important for local entities to make it clear they do not want federal agents to interfere," he said.
The petition effort in Richland does not yet have a local coordinator.
"This will be an all-volunteer effort, and it involves medical marijuana people, which can be like herding cats," Moody said.
Richland city attorney Thomas Lampson had no comment about the petition effort.
-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org