Why is marijuana legal in WA State, while online poker remains a felony? Hypocrisy?
Last week I was invited on a local conservative talk radio show, with host Dori Monson, to talk about the insane felony prohibition of online poker in the State of Washington. As a conservative, Dori was fiery in his disdain
(go to the 29:00 mark) for what he sees as the sleezy politics of the local gaming tribes contributing to the campaigns of legislators and the Governor, and their making felons out of citizens to protect the monopoly of these special interests, while I tried my best to remain diplomatic (http://kiroradio.com/listen/9978631/), (go to the 21:00 mark)and cover our efforts.
It was then carried up by a Northwest online news magazine (http://mynorthwest.com/76/2630022/Ultimate-hypocrisy-Marijuana-is-legal-online-poker-a-felony), and then it got a very good write up by Pokernewsdaily, giving it wide coverage. While both articles do a good job of exposing the issue and of highlighting our player-driven effort to pass legislation to regulate online poker, there is more to the story, and I believe it could lead to a productive discussion.
A myth exposed
I see a lot of posts on forums by folks who believe that all we have to do is replace all the Republicans with Democrats and we'll have internet poker. This is a myth. Washington State is one of the bluest of Blue States, and this egregious law was written by, passed by, and signed by Democrats. Gambling is one of those issues that straddles across both the moralists on the right, and the nanny-state leftists. But this conservative talk show host stressed the important issue at hand, FREEDOM. The truth is, we need legislators on both sides of the aisle on our side, and alienating one party over the other is counter productive.
Is it hypocrisy?
It is certainly ironic, but there is a real reason why it isn't exactly hypocrisy . . . the legislature didn't legalize marijuana in Washington State, the people did. Marijuana legalization in WA was done by an Initiative to the Legislature (http://sos.wa.gov/_assets/elections/initiatives/i502.pdf). This is a process by which the people can force an issue before the legislature, and if they refuse to act, or act in a different way, it is put to the voters for their approval. This process requires proponents to gather around 300K signatures from registered voters, in a time frame of about 270 days (the marijuana initiative got a late start, but still did it in only six months), or roughly 1100 signatures per day. A daunting task that requires extreme motivation, and a lot of money. This is what happened with marijuana, the legislature did not act on the measure, and it went to the voters in 2012, where it was approved. This forced the state to abide by the law. One other thing, after two years, the legislature can undo an initiative if they so choose, something they have done many times.
Why don't we do this?
We tried. I filed an initiative to the legislature (http://www.cardschat.com/f63/washington-state-inititatives-i-582-i-221748/) last year to regulate internet poker in our state. Unfortunately, the poker playing community is not nearly as motivated as the pot heads were (tongue in cheek). We had no support from industry nor the players, and our signature drive barely got of the ground. But I haven't given up the fight just yet, and am now pursuing legislative action.
If you want something done, you gotta do it yourself
This is very true, and I am hopeful that my efforts are not only successful, but also inspire other players to take up the cause in their state. We the people only works if we the people take action. We can't sit around complaining that our government doesn't listen to us when we won't even speak up so they can.
If anyone would like help getting started taking action in their state, I'm happy to offer any guidance I can. States moving forward simultaneously is the best, quickest way to spread internet poker across the country.