I-502 campaign organizers Tonia Winchester and Alison Holcomb watch returns come in.
Washington State voters are approving the legalization of marijuana by a 55-45 percent margin, according to the latest results from election workers. Only one county hasn't yet reported its votes, Snohomish, and there are results coming in over the next week, but by all accounts, legal pot looks like a done deal.
But it started out with plenty of skepticism.
It was 8:23 p.m. when Alison Holcomb, the campaign director for Washington State’s pot-legalizing Initiative 502, first stepped up to the microphone. The crowd assembled at Hotel Andra—a smart crowd stacked with lifelong pot activists and ACLU lawyers—then shut the fuck up, fast.
But Holcomb wasn't bearing good news: “At this point, we’re trailing,” she admitted. “But we’re also doing better than Obama, so hopefully we’re going to see these numbers improve—oh wait, never mind!” She had been reading numbers for the state, minus King County. The crowd erupted in nervous laughter.
“You know what?” Holcomb said. “This is the point in the evening when I need a giant shot of tequila.”
Everyone was drowning their nerves in drink—wine, coffee, water, booze, booze, booze. And while the crowd hardly resembled your stereotypical T-shirted, tattooed, tie-dyed stoners, the banquet spread was a snacker’s paradise of fried cheese and chicken kabobs, cucumber salads, and grilled pita. Tiny pies were tucked into every corner of the room. The conversation was kicking: People were already talking about next steps—how to tweak the Washington State Liquor Control Board into being the government mechanism to effectively end marijuana prohibition; which state politicians we can expect to step up and lead on implementing the new law; what the Feds will do (“They can invade us, they can sue us, they can ignore us,” one gentleman, whose tattoos discreetly peeked out from under his cuffs, ticked off on his fingers”). While they talked, phones and iPads were obsessively refreshed, waiting for those all-important King County numbers.
Suddenly, Holcomb returned to the mic. “We’ve got 62 percent of King County,” she screamed before the rest of her words were drowned out. Everyone was cheering. Fists were in the air! Eyes were shiny with tears! “I've been working for this moment every day for 40 years,” said one activist, who’d traveled up from California to be in Seattle on election night.
Even though not all the votes had been counted, and not all the counties were in, Holcomb decided it was enough. “I am so proud, so humbled to stand among the voters of the great state of Washington who have on this day taken a historic vote,” Holcomb said in her victory speech. "Ultimately, I'm most proud that despite controversy and uncertainty, Washington State exhibited tremendous leadership in reexamining a failed policy. Today, the state of Washington looked at 75 years of prohibition and said, 'It is time for a new approach.’”