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Rick Steves leads the fight for I-502 in documentary about battle over marijuana legalization in Washington State

Cinema Village
22 East 12th St. between University Pl. & Fifth Ave.
Opens Friday, June 13

In 2012, a fierce battle over the legalization of marijuana took place in Washington State, but it turned out that the most intense fighting was not between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, or even drug users and the “Just Say No” contingent. Instead, the controversial Initiative 502 pit medical marijuana users and purveyors against a dedicated group of men and women from across the spectrum who believed that I-502 was a necessary first step in the decriminalization of pot. Producer-director Riley Morton and producer-writer Nils Cowan take viewers behind the scenes of the hotly contested campaign in Evergreen: The Road to Legalization. The pro-I-502 group is spearheaded by ACLU drug policy director Alison Holcomb; such current and former U.S. and city attorneys as John McKay and Pete Holmes; state representative Mary Lou Dickerson; travel writer and television host Rick Steves; and substance abuse specialist Dr. Roger Roffman, who says that I-502 “not only tightly regulates where marijuana is produced and how it’s sold and to whom it’s sold; it also creates, through earmarking, programs for education and prevention and treatment and research. All of this amounts to a public health alternative to prohibition.” On the other side are Cannibis Action Coalition executive director Steve Sarich, 4Evergreen Group cofounders Josh Berman and Ramel Williams, Seattle Hempfest director Vivian McPeak, former medical marijuana dispensary owner Julie Istvan, Snohomish County Drug & Gang Task Force commander Pat Slack, and, most vehemently, defense attorney and activist Doug Hiatt, who claims, “The entire thing is about getting a win, getting this first victory so you can trumpet it and say it even if it’s just a propaganda victory.” The central issue concerns the initiative’s effect on the medical marijuana industry, both sellers and users, including a heated debate over a DUI provision that reaches a pinnacle when a group against I-502 attempts to shout down a “Vote Yes” rally in the state capitol in Olympia. Morton’s feature-length debut is a compelling look inside not only the war on drugs but the grueling process of civic reform in today’s culture, a primer on how difficult it is to institute real change in contemporary America.

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