What Happens if Washington Legalizes Pot?

PHOTO: Israeli medical marijuana
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Washington state probably won't influence the 2012 presidential race, but voters there could still leave the next president in a haze.

On Tuesday, Washington may very well become the first state to legalize the possession, cultivation, and commercial sale of marijuana, both Republicans and Democrats say--bringing the state into apparent conflict with federal law if voters approve Initiative 502, which would allow residents over 21 to buy pot from stores licensed and regulated by the state liquor board.

If I-502 passes, it remains unclear how the president, whoever he is, will respond.

The White House declined to comment to ABC News when asked whether President Obama would seek to overturn I-502, should it pass and should he remain in office. So did Obama's Office of National Drug Control Policy. Neither Obama's nor Romney's presidential campaign responded to multiple emails seeking comment over the weekend.

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"We are not going to speculate on the outcome of the various ballot initiatives in each of the states," Department of Justice spokeswoman Allison Price wrote in an email.

Representatives of both political parties in Washington told ABC News that prospects for I-502 look good.

"I have no doubt it's gonna pass," Washington Republican Party Chairman Kirby Wilbur told ABC News. The state GOP did not take a position on the measure, and no one raised it in an endorsement meeting, Wilbur said. "As liberal as the state is ... I wouldn't be surprised to see it at 55/45," Wilbur said, referring to percentages of the vote for and against.

"It's really hard to know what's going to happen," Washington Democratic Party spokesman Benton Strong said. "I think most of the polls look positive for it."

Their favorable handicapping is informed partly by automated polls, considered unreliable by ABC News, that predict the measure will pass by a comfortable margin. Major pollsters have not surveyed in Washington in 2012, focusing instead on competitive presidential-battleground states.

The campaign to pass I-502, New Approach Washington, has raised over $5.9 million in the 2012 election cycle, the most ever by an initiative of its kind according to the national group Drug Policy Alliance, which gave $1.69 million. Progressive auto insurance chairman Peter Lewis, its largest donor, gave $2 million. The campaign used that money to air four TV ads covering most of the state, two starring women and two starring former law enforcers, all speaking straight to camera.

The opposition is led by two groups, the medical-marijuana patients group No on I-502 and another pro-pot group called Sensible Washington, both of which support legalized recreational marijuana use and oppose I-502 because it entails added restrictions like those on impaired driving. No on I-502 has raised just under $7,000.

"All [medical marijuana] patients will be guilty of driving under the influence of drugs every time they get behind the wheel," said No on I-502's Steve Sarich, a medical-marijuana advocate who notes that patients like him would test positive for marijuana if pulled over by police, even without being high.

"If you want to legalize marijuana, you don't add more and more heinous laws," Sarich told ABC News. Sarich predicts the federal government will at least overturn parts of the law if it passes.

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