The Secretary of State's Office has certified an initiative to legalize marijuana, and unless the Legislature takes action, the measure will appear on the November ballot

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Pot initiative gets signatures

The Secretary of State’s Office has certified an initiative to legalize marijuana, and unless the Legislature takes action, the measure will appear on the November ballot.

Secretary of State Sam Reed’s office announced Friday that sponsors of Initiative 502 submitted nearly 278,000 valid signatures, more than the 241,153 necessary to qualify.

Initiative 502 would create a system of state-licensed growers, processors and stores and impose a 25 percent excise tax at each stage.

Those 21 and over could buy up to an ounce of dried marijuana; 1 pound of marijuana-infused product in solid form, such as brownies; or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids.


Candidate out of congressional race

The congressional hopes of Snohomish County Councilman John Koster were boosted Friday when fellow Republican James Watkins announced his withdrawal from the race in the state’s 1st Congressional District and his support for Koster.

The race is for the seat being vacated by Democrat Jay Inslee, who is running for governor. At least a half-dozen Democrats have said they will run.

Kirby Wilbur, state GOP chair, said Watkins’ departure and pledge of support for Koster demonstrates a unity in the party he expects will aid its chances of winning the seat.


Redistricting plan gets minor tweaks

State lawmakers are looking to make minor technical adjustments to Washington’s new redistricting plan.

The House unanimously approved those tweaks Friday.

Lawmakers are not allowed to make adjustments that would impact more than 2 percent of a district’s population, and any alterations must be approved with a two-thirds majority.

The Washington State Redistricting Commission approved its plans for legislative and congressional maps on New Year’s Day.

It dramatically reshapes the state’s congressional boundaries to incorporate a new district centered in the Olympia area.


2 dogs attack school-bus driver

Two dogs attacked a school-bus driver at Northeast Seattle’s Eckstein Middle School on Friday morning, which led to a brief lockdown at the school.

The bus driver, who was taking a walk around the school before heading to another school, suffered puncture wounds to his hands, according to a recorded message sent to all Eckstein families.

All students and staff were told to remain in their classrooms out of concern the dogs would strike again.

Police detained the dogs, said Seattle Public Schools spokeswoman Lesley Rogers, who did not know what type of dogs they were.


1 teen sought in robberies caught

Seattle police believe they have caught one of the teens responsible for a string of robberies on Beacon Hill dating back to November.

The 17-year-old suspect was arrested Thursday, according to an item posted on the Seattle Police Department blog.

At least two other men involved in the robberies are apparently still at large, according to police.

The victims of the robberies have all been attacked while walking on the street, according to police.

In each case, the robbers were carrying guns, but they apparently also used pepper spray or simple physical force.


Lawmakers seek pot classification

A bipartisan group of 42 state lawmakers signed a letter asking the DEA to reschedule marijuana to a classification that could allow it to be prescribed and sold in pharmacies.

The letter and a joint House-Senate resolution introduced this week piggyback on Gov. Chris Gregoire’s existing petition to reschedule marijuana, which is also supported by a handful of other states.

The lawmakers, like Gregoire, see rescheduling marijuana as the simplest, clearest solution to the conflict between federal prohibition of marijuana and Washington’s medical-marijuana law.

“The divergence in state and federal law creates a situation where there is no regulated and safe system to supply legitimate patients who need medical cannabis. More to the point, it is clear that the long-standing classification of medical use of cannabis in the United States as an illegal Schedule I substance is fundamentally flawed and should be changed.”

Lawmakers — in the state, and in Congress — have taken this position before; Newt Gingrich in 1981 backed a rescheduling petition as a young U.S. Representative from Georgia.

A hearing on the resolution is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the Senate Health and Long-term Care committee.

Times staff and news services