Public television and radio show host Rick Steves, well-known for his travel tips and anecdotes from the “Rick Steves’ Europe” program, will visit the Kirkland Performance Center Feb. 4. The topic, however, might not be the same trip you were thinking about.
Screening his latest project, “”Marijuana: It’s Time for a Conversation”, Steves will present a short film on the popular and commonly illegal drug – also known by it’s latin nomenclature Cannabis sativa or slang terms such as weed, pot or ganja. His frequent travels abroad and observing how the use of marijuana was tolerated led Steves to become an outspoken critic of federal drug policies in recent years. The film will be followed by his own prepared remarks, plus one or two other speakers and a question and answer period.
According to the Web site marijuanaconversation.org – prominently featuring Steves and maintained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – the discussion and information awareness campaign is oriented towards reconsidering the prohibition on the trade and use of marijuana.
Writing in a Seattle Times guest column on Mar. 18 last year, Steves said he believes the consequences are often totally disproportionate to whatever societal risk or danger marijuana use may pose.”Our criminal-justice system wastes time and resources with these low-level marijuana-possession cases while half our violent crimes go unsolved,” he wrote.
According to 2007 FBI statistics, over 775,000 people were arrested in the US for simple possession of marijuana, a record number. The number exceeds those arrested for violent crime at 597,447.
State Representative Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland), a leading critic of US federal policy and the so-called “War on Drugs”, will join Steves at the KPC and will outline his efforts in Olympia to reform recreational drug policies in the state. The pair have hosted the public forum in a variety of locations throughout the state, including Spokane, Bellingham and Seattle.
“I’m really not surprised at the level of interest in this,” he said. “We’ve reached a tipping point. The public understands that the current policies aren’t working. We need to get the marijuana out of schools, off the streets and protect our children better … We need a rational, regulatory regime.”
State residents have proven open to drug policy changes in the past. In 1998, voters passed Initiative 682 which allowed residents to use marijuana for medicinal purposes with a doctors prescription. A valid patient or provider “may possess a total of no more than twenty-four ounces of usable marijuana, and no more than fifteen plants.” Unlawful possession of 40 grams or less of marijuana in Washington State is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a maximum $1000 fine and could have their driver’s license suspended for one year.
The Kirkland Performance Center is located at 350 Kirkland Avenue. Due to Steve’s celebrity, the KPC and organizers are offering free tickets for the Feb. 4 event for a limited time on a first come, first-served basis through Jan. 26. To register for tickets, visit the program’s Website or call 206-624-2184.