Center for Legal Cannabis

Legal Cannabis Week #17

Blair Butterworth, 1938-2013

Veteran political consultant Blair Butterworth died Friday at the age of 74. Joel Connelly at the Seattle PI wrote a thoughtful obit, and the Seattle Times followed suit.

I knew Blair Butterworth. I think the first time I met him was at the informal monthly drug policy roundtables organized by Andy Ko from the ACLU of Washington around 2000. Andy felt, quite rightly, that one of the most powerful ways to forward local drug policy reform community was to come together on a regular basis to talk to each other* and update one another on our efforts.

In 2001, cannabis hero Dominic Holden approached me about helping realize a Seattle initiative to legalize pot. Smarter people advised against such unlawful local language, and we convinced Andy Ko to write Initiative 73, later refiled as Initiative 75 after a false start. This was to be the first in a string of "lowest law enforcement" initiatives that earned victories for the cannabis community during a period of lull in weed's winning waveform.

As Dominic recalled, we then made two hires that led to I-75's victory in 2003: Matt Fox and Blair Butterworth. Matt was (and is) a flanneled, long-haired, bass-playing political wonk who worked for kooky, beloved councilmember Charlie Chong. Blair was a democratic political consultant who helped several governors earn their seats.

Matt ran the day-to-day campaign, and both he and Butterworth sat in on steering committee meetings to advise us. My first reaction to Blair was that he was naturally loud, slightly intimidating, incredibly intelligent, and deeply experienced. His supreme confidence struck me as something he did not flaunt, rather something that simply was—he knew nothing other.

He had the answer, or a set of possible answers, in every situation. What's more, the mental calculus by which he factored political proofs was nearly immediate—so fast I initially wondered whether his seemingly-wise and well-factored responses were but off-the-cuff suggestions for potheads that knew no better.

That thought quickly passed, and I grew to realize that Blair Butterworth was a political fucking genius. His general processing unit was overclocked for politics and the art of relationships. His natural confidence rubbed off the group, and it helped change me from an activist that knew *most of my endeavors would fail into an activist that knew any of my endeavors could succeed.

That was a big paradigm shift for me, and I view that period of time, working on I-75 with that group of intentional, focused people, as one of the most positive, come-together, can-do experiences of my life. A great many people contributed to that, but more than any other, Blair Butterworth deposited astute political calculation and personal confidence into our cannabis coffers. Blair Butterworth was our confidence man.

Since 2003, I ran into Blair only a handful of times. I don't recall seeing him at the I-502 victory party—he was advisor to the campaign—but I remember chatting with him at a party to celebrate I-502 making the ballot. I remember still feeling intimidated by his very being, mostly because I put him on a pedestal in my mind as an godly guru. So great was he that I usually wondered whether he'd even remember my name. But he was never like that, despite my meek fears, and his plain, folksy conversation disarmed my discomfort, despite the gravelly boom of his voice.

A month or two back, Dom told me that Blair was dying, losing his battle against cancer, and suggested I send him some kinds words if I wished to make a final connection in this realm. I intended to do so, but I did not. I did send him intentionally positive thoughts, and I trust it comforted him on some level.

And, now that the electrical energy that constituted his living spirit has escaped back into the universe around us—and within us—I ask my peers to offer the same. Whether you met him or not, please offer a positive prayer to help in our transitions.

I knew Blair Butterworth, and I raise my glass in his honor.

This week's writing

This week in The Stranger, I investigate the possibility that state regulators will be forced to require our legal pot supply be pesticide free.

What Bug Sprays Are Safe to Smoke?
Mar 27 | The Stranger

Confirming this is a likely reality for Washington State, just this week Maine officials cited a medical cannabis dispensary for using pesticides on their pot. I also Slogged about a new bill to require medical pot businesses to get licensed with the liquor board.

Liquor Board to License Medical Pot Under Proposed Bill
Mar 28 | Slog

Legislative weed watch

Four weeks left in the legislative sausage-making fest. Washington State is set to:

  • Create a new cannabis DUI for boating
  • Disallow I-502's legal pot protections to 15,000 probationers
  • Disallow food stamps for pot purchases—a tangible concern
  • Allow Walmart to "dispose of" pot it finds—a tangible concern
  • Direct I-502 general funds to early learning

Most of these bills—except the early learning one—cleared their houses of origin by heavy or unanimous margins. Except for the bill to deny pot to probationers, these bills elicited no testimony from the cannabis community. Bills needed to clear their house of origin by March 13, unless they generate revenue (called NTIB).

One such bill was introduced last week too license medical pot businesses through the liquor board. Proffered by the Washington Cannabis Association, the bill may be the final hope for medical pot entrepreneurs to cement in stone a grey-market industry they fear is endangered by the prospect of legal pot. A few NTIB bills are included here, because they were recently acted upon; the rest can be found on our lobby page.

HB 1888 | Industrial hemp

  • APR 4: Scheduled for public hearing in House Appropriations Apr 4 @1:30pm.

SB 5437 | Cannabis boating DUI

  • APR 3: Cleared Senate (47-0-2). Scheduled for executive session in House Public Safety Apr 3 @ 1:30pm.

SB 5010 | No pot on probation

  • APR 3: Cleared Senate (49-0). Scheduled for executive session in House Public Safety Apr 3 @ 1:30pm.

SB 5279 | No pot for food stamps

  • APR 3: Cleared Senate (39-10). Scheduled for executive session in House Human Services Apr 2 @ 1:30pm.

HB 1723 | I-502 general funds to early learning

  • MAR 29: Cleared House (59-38-1). Cleared Senate Early Learning and referred to Senate Ways and Means.

HB 1808 | Walmart may dispose found pot

  • MAR 29: Cleared House (97-0-1). Cleared Senate Health Care and sent to Senate Rules.

SB 5887 | NTIB: Dispensary licensing through liquor board

  • MAR 28: Referred to Senate Ways and Means.

Week in review

Pot education entrepreneur George Boyadjian packed the house at a recent seminar.

Seattle tech start-up ClowdPWR built the liquor board a WordPress-based document review site to help filter pot consultant applications.

Tacoma's Stonegate Pizza and Rum Bar opened the state's first pot-only private club.

Idaho legislators passed a bill opposing marijuana legalization.

Law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky and ACLU's Allen Hopper wrote an LA Times op-ed saying it's perfectly legal to legalize pot.

Newly-elected Washington Congressperson Denny Heck intends to play a leading role in passing federal bills to allow the legal pot industry to bank.

The Brookings Institute said states should lead on marijuana policy.

Seattle City Council discussed proposed cannabis zoning rules.

Cannabis consultant Mark Kleiman wondered what constitutes a single serving of sensi.

And Mark Kleiman also charged our pot tax predictions as way off.

Federal border patrol permanently ban Canadians from America if they ever admit to past pot use.


Sean Cecil, Attorney Canna Law Group